The International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) condemns the interference by senior management of Asia
Television Ltd (ATV) with the editorial independence of its newsroom, as
revealed in the recent findings of the Broadcasting Authority of Hong Kong.
On the night of July 6, ATV aired a false report
that the former President of China, Jiang Zemin, 84, was dead. Shortly
afterwards the colour of the TV station logo was changed from red and orange to
On December 5, the Chairperson of the Broadcasting
Authority of HK, Ambrose Ho, announced the findings of the inquiry into the ATV’s
false news report.
The findings revealed that Kwong Hoi-Ying,
Senior Vice CEO of ATV, had interfered with the independence of the news room.
On July 6, Kwong had called Tammy Tam Wai-Yee, Vice President of the news
department, ordering her to air the death report of Jiang Zemin on that night’s
evening news bulletin. However, Tam and her senior supervisor, Leung Ka-Wing,
the then-Senior Vice President of the News and Public Affairs Department, were
unable to verify the information. Leung called Kwong seeking to delay the
report until the information could be verified, but Kwong refused and
repeatedly urged Leung to air the report as soon as possible. Kwong further
reassured Tam and Leung that he and the company would bear any responsibilities
for the report.
The Broadcasting Authority stated that ATV
was also slow to correct its false report of Jiang’s death, failing to retract
its report until well after the story had been confirmed as “pure rumour” by state-owned
media group, Xinhua, the following day.
Following the Broadcasting Authority’s report,
on September 5, Leung Ka-Wing announced his resignation. The reason given by
Leung for his departure was that he had, “failed to stop that news report [the
unconfirmed report of death of Jiang Zemin] from being aired despite my all-out
efforts”. Tam Wai-Yee also tendered her resignation on the same day, but was later
encouraged to take leave.
For airing false news, in breach of the
Generic Code of Practice, ATV was fined HK$ 300,000 (approximately US38,000). Two
of ATV’s business news programmes were also found in breach of the code.
However the broadcasting authority only issued warnings to the company on these
The Hong Kong Legislative Council has also
indicated that it will be meeting with the chairperson of the Broadcasting
Authority, Kwong and other ATV board members to discuss the matter. ATV’s
broadcasting license is due for consideration for renewal by the Bureau of
Commerce and Economic Development in 2015
In his comments at the official release of
the findings, the Chairperson noted that ATV management was irresponsible in
not cooperating fully and providing sufficient evidence to the broadcasting
authority’s investigative team. It was also noted that Kwong had given
inconsistent evidence to the authority when attempting to explain the cause of
the incorrect report.
The report made no reference to Wang Zhang,
a high profile investor who bought a large number of convertible ATV shares and to whom some had initially
attributed the interference, because of his heavy involvement in ATV’s
activities since March 2010. Ho explained that Wang was not a target of
investigation in this report, but that he would be the subject of another
report to be announced soon. Ho said there was no evidence to prove Wang was
involved in the inaccurate report.
The report failed to reveal the source of
the false claim or what measures ATV will be taking to ensure such mistakes are
“Editorial Independence is fundamentally important for the
media”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
”It is the media’s responsibility to the
public to report the news independently and fairly. Without editorial
independence, the media loses credibility and the confidence of the public it
The IFJ commends the release of the
Broadcasting Authority’s independent report, and welcomes the decision by the
Hong Kong Legislative Council to investigate further the interference in ATV by
The IFJ also urges full consideration of
theses issue by the Bureau of Commerce and Economic Development, in its
decision-making process regarding the renewal of ATV’s broadcasting license.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
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