HONG KONG: Can Anyone Save ATV?

MIRANDA PAK WRITES – Everything must come to an end, including Hong Kong’s oldest TV station, Asia Television (ATV).

ATV will have to stop broadcasting starting April 1st, 2016. Hong Kong’s Executive Council said they won’t renew ATV’s free-to-air license when it expires on November 30th of this year.

ATV strove to be “Asia’s CNN,” but lost a lot of viewers in recent years due to their pro-Beijing stance and targeting of audiences in mainland China.

The broadcaster did not have enough money to pay its employees, so it had to sell farmland and other things to pay them after not doing so for months. It was also fined $49,000 for not being able to deliver the paychecks.

The Executive Council suspended making a decision on the license renewal of ATV for months while the station was talking to potential buyers.

First, mainland media group Caixin quoted Wong Ching, main investor of ATV, as saying that the station would close at the end of March because bids from potential investors were too low. In the same day, ATV said that the station was operating normally and would not be closing.

Soon after that confusion, ATV’s 6pm newscast stated that Wong agreed to sell his stake to HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay -but HKTV said no deal was made.

Despite all these setbacks, there might still be some hope for ATV.

David Chiu, son of former boss of ATV Deacon Chiu Te-ken, may be able to save the station. It was assumed that Chiu planned to buy the 54.2 percent share held by Wong, but the deal blew up when Wong pushed for a higher price.

There is still hope for a “white knight” to step in and keep ATV’s 600-700 employees working, turn the station around, and make a strong case when the government distributes its free-to-air license.

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