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Hong Kong’s ATV Halts News Broadcasts as Financial Crisis Deepens

Newscasts were halted on Saturday at Asia Television (ATV), Hong Kong’s oldest TV broadcaster, after the company’s ongoing crisis turned into a death spiral.

The company admitted that it did not have enough remaining editorial staff to put out the scheduled news shows.

It was also reported that the company’s largest shareholder is seeking to liquidate the business.

The failure to broadcast news puts the company in breach of the terms of its broadcast license, which requires ATV to provide two 15 minute evening news shows in Chinese and English each day. The company said that it hoped to resume news broadcasts after the Chinese New year holidays which begin Monday (Feb. 8.)

Regulator, the Communications Authority said that ATV could be fined for its license breach.

More than 200 staff have resigned from the company in the past week after two months without receiving their scheduled salaries. The company promised, but failed, to make good on a promise to pay the unpaid wages by Friday.

The company has less than two months remaining of its broadcasting license, after the Communications Authority in April last year ruled that its permits would not be renewed. The Authority said that ATV lacked the financial stability to continue.

The company, which was founded in 1959 as Rediffusion, has been struggling for the most of the past five years and has seen a succession of corporate ownership tussles, even as it has been deserted by advertisers and audiences.

Businessman, Wong Ching agreed to sell his controlling stake to mainland investor Si Rongbin, but the transaction has not been completed. It emerges that Wong is now taking the position of a creditor and has applied to the High Court to liquidate the company and recover whatever value remains.

Through the past year, ATV has repeatedly failed to pay all its staff on time. According to one source, the company has been fined 11 times in the past year by courts and the regulators.

Hong Kong lawmaker, and representative for the IT sector, Charles Mok said that the Hong Kong government is to blame for the current state of the territory’s broadcast sector which he called a “disgrace.”

Mok said that the Chief Executive [CY Leung] had done everything but encourage competition and development. He said that the territory’s leadership had used broadcast license decisions to eliminate media that it cannot control, notably rejecting the 2014 application of Ricky Wong’s Hong Kong Broadcast Network.

“Although the Chief Executive in Council decided not to renew ATV’s licence on April 1 last year, it granted a free TV licence to HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE) on the same day. HKTVE is required to launch its free TV service by March 31 this year. On top of using a fixed network, the CA has also approved HKTVE’s application to use part of the spectrum vacated by ATV when its licence has expired as an additional means to transmit its free TV service. We believe that HKTVE will launch its free TV service by using spectrum as a transmission means as soon as possible,” said a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau on Sunday (Feb. 7).

The Government has established a task force, led by the CEDB to handle the issues arising from the non-renewal of ATV’s free TV licence and “to strive for a smooth transition.”



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