By Hung Chin Pang Peter
Retrieved from: http://www.ontvb.com/uploadfile/2012/1205/20121205073647482.jpg
On 15th October, 2013, the government rejected to grant a license to Hong Kong Television Network Limited, while agreeing to grant a license to Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited. This issue has stirred up public concerns.
This blog post will discuss whether the Chief Executive Council has adhered to the rule of law and procedures while making the judgment. If not, the blog post would then examine whether judicial review would be a resort.
The decision of granting license should be based on Hong Kong Ordinance Cap 562s (Broadcasting Ordinance) 10 Grant of licence, “The Chief Executive in Council may, after considering recommendations made by the Authority, grant a licence to such conditions as he thinks fit specified in the licence.” Therefore, as the Communication Authority is the statutory body that regulates broadcasting and communications policy, it plays a key role in advising the Chief Executive in Council the licence issue.
How the Chief Executive in Council respond to the recommendations?
In fact, the Communication Authority has advised Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issue free TV licences to all three applicants, which are Hong Kong Television Network, Fantastic Television and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company. (South China Morning Post, 2013) However, the recommendations are neglected by the Chief Executive in Council. A senior counsel, Tong, even commented that “… the authority’s recommendations were completely ignored.” Though the Council has expressed the concern about the sustainability of the applicants, the authority’s submission indicated that “it should let the market decide who survives”. For me, an equal opportunity should be given to all three applicants, and it is their responsibility to bear the risk of operating the broadcasting services.
Why would the government make such a choice?
Then, many people may be curious about the rationale behind the decision made by the government. However, the government didn’t provide a reason for rejecting the application of HKTV due to confidentiality of the Council meeting, even Ricky Wong Wai kay, the founder of HKTV, did not know the rationale behind government’s decision, it is because according to the submission, HKTV has met the criteria listed by the government for broadcasting companies (South China Morning Post, 2013). Under this case, what is the meaning of setting guidance and criteria?
Besides, the government might make some procedural mistakes. It is because the Chief Executive was not obliged to seek the consent of the regulator before making a decision on behalf of Exco (Joe Wong, 2013). Hence, the action of the government is unaccountable.
Could judicial review be a way to go for?
According to Albert Chen Hung-Yee, professor of Law Faculty in University of Hong Kong, the role of the Court is just to judge whether the action of the government is legal, not to solve controversial policy and political issues. It means that even if the government loses in judicial review, it can only prove that the decision made by the Chief Executive in Council is invalid. Never can the Court decide whether to grant a license to HKTV or not. Therefore, the judicial review might only request the government to reconsider the issue of granting licence at most, in the case that the government loses in judicial review.
In conclusion, the Chief Executive in Council owes us an explanation about the issue. The number of free-to-air television companies might affect the quality of life of general public. If the government cannot provide a convincible rationale behind their decisions, mistrust of the government could be the result, though judicial review might not be an effective way to go for.
Section 10 of Broadcasting Ordinance Chapter 562, Laws of Hong Kong
(2012, April 1). Grant of licence. Retrieved February 25, 2014,
Sina News (2011). “The legal issue of the free-to-air TV problems”. Retrieved February 25, 2014, from http://news.sina.com.hk/news/20131108/-6-3110891/1.html
The House News (2013). “Judicial review cannot solve the licence problem”. Retrieved February 25, 2014,
South China Morning Post (2013). “Government ignored advice on TV licences, says regulator”. Retrieved February 25, 2014,
South China Morning Post (2013). “Public outcry over rejection of Ricky Wong’s free-to-air TV licence bid”. Retrieved February 25, 2014,
South China Morning Post (2012). “TV licence to thrill: Ricky Wong’s pledge for the future”. Retrieved February 25, 2014,
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