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Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 17:59

HKTV to fight on as appeal court quashes license bid

By Timothy Chui

HONG KONG - A free-to-air television license bid by Hong Kong Television (HKTV) has been quashed by the Court of Appeal – with the digital media and online shopping giant intent on pursuing the case in the city’s highest court.

Chief Judge of the High Court Andrew Cheung Kui-nung tossed out a 2015 lower court ruling which found a 2013 decision by the Chief Executive in Council (CEIC) denying HKTV a free-to-air license was unlawful.

The CEIC was forced to revisit its decision after the lower court ruled last year that HKTV’s bid was unfairly rejected and contrary to Hong Kong’s broadcast policy – specifically free and fair competition to develop the sector in an orderly manner.

Justice Cheung found no fault in the CEIC’s decision to grant only two licenses, with HKTV being the third applicant and only rejected one. He said the CEIC, and not the courts, enjoyed the full responsibility and power by law to decide which parties were granted licenses.

Cheung’s judgment noted the CEIC had a duty to weigh a myriad of factors including market sustainability. He also noted that the closure of a domestic free television broadcaster – a reference to Asia Television (ATV) – was significant, affecting many people if not the entire viewing public.

Cheung referenced Commercial Television’s spectacular and sudden collapse in the 1970s and more recently ATV’s slow demise over the past two years, adding that “vicious competition in the domestic free television market is not a matter to be taken lightly”.

Cheung wrote that the original CEIC decision was to avoid overly drastic and unpredictable changes, and that the CEIC was entitled to take a cautious approach.

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