LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2125/95-96
(This minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP
LegCo Panel on Information Policy
Minutes of Special Meeting held on
Wednesday, 7 August 1996 at 2:30 p.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing (Chairman)
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP
Members Absent :
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Members Attending :
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Public Officers Attending :
- Mrs LAU NG Wai-lan, Rita
- Acting Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport
- Mr CHEUNG Po-tak, Peter
- Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing
- Mrs Teresa WONG
- Assistant Commissioner (Broadcasting)
Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority
Attendance by Invitation :
- Management of Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Chief Executive Officer
- Mr Anthony WONG
- Chief Operating Officer
- Mr Fred Goforth
- Controller of Operations
- Mr Kelly Dean
- News Controller
- Ms LI Siu-mei, Clara
- Chinese News Director
- Staff Representatives of Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited
- Miss WONG Miu-nuen
- Mr LEUNG Chi-tak
- Hong Kong Journalists Association
- Mr LIU Kin-ming
- Executive Committee Member
Staff in Attendnace :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration, management and staff of Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited, and Hong Kong Journalists Association to the meeting. She informed Members that the Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing (TELA) was also representing the Broadcasting Authority (BA) at this meeting.
Reduction in news airtime on Hit Radio
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1967/95-96 and CB(2) 1975/95-96)
2. The Chairman stated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Metro Broadcast news service and the recent incident on reduction of news airtime on Hit Radio (the incident).
Meeting with Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited (Metro Broadcast)
3. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Philip CHAN gave an account of the incident regarding the reduction in news airtime on Hit Radio. The incident was actually an administrative hiccup caused by communication breakdown between management and staff. The allegation that Metro Broadcast was cutting its news airtime was groundless. In fact, Metro Broadcast was to initiate a programming change which involved the reallocation of its news resources and the repackaging of its news programmes. He explained that the management of Metro Broadcast constantly reviewed the popularity of its programmes. A research company was appointed to conduct daily survey on ratings of its programmes. Survey findings for the second quarter of 1996 revealed that the ratings of the news programmes at 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. had reached very low levels, especially for Hit Radio. The management of Metro Broadcast therefore decided to re-arrange its news programmes whereby concentrating its news airtime to three minutes per hour, which was considered by the management to be adequate, and introducing a one-hour newscast on public affairs to be produced by the Chinese News Director. Due to the need for staff redeployment, the one-hour newscast was planned to be introduced in September 1996. Unfortunately, for commercial reasons, the plan for the newscast was not made known to the staff when they were informed of the re-arrangement of the news programmes. He admitted that the incident could have been avoided if it were better handled. At a meeting with staff representatives immediately following his return from vacation, the matter was resolved with the agreement to reintroduce some news airtime and the disclosure of plans to launch a newscast on public affairs.
4. Mr Philip CHAN stated that Metro Broadcast was fully aware of its community responsibility in broadcasting. He added that the daily news broadcast time of Hit Radio was more than its licensing requirements. With the introduction of a one-hour newscast on public affairs in September 1996, the daily news broadcast would actually be increased to 140 minutes. Metro Broadcast hoped that the Administration would maintain the waiver of requirements under Clauses 28.1(a) and (b) of the broadcasting licence for Metro Broadcast. It also hoped that the Administration would maintain its flexible broadcasting policy on Metro Broadcast.
5. Mr CHAN reiterated that as the actions of the newsroom staff involved in the incident were legitimate, no disciplinary action would be taken on them. He fully understood the staff feeling in this matter. He also assured that the production of the one-hour newscast to be introduced in September 1996 would be assigned to the newsroom staff.
6. In response to the Chairman, Mr CHAN stated that there was no question of selective broadcasting of news. There was also no intention of blending entertainment elements into news programmes. Ms Clara LI added that the news section of Metro Broadcast had always operated independently and there had not been any intervention from the senior management.
7. Mr Andrew CHENG suggested Metro Broadcast to allocate more resources for news service between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Meeting with staff representatives of Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited (the staff representatives)
8. Miss WONG Miu-nuen and Mr LEUNG Chi-tak presented the staff representatives submission (Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1975/95-96) and pointed out that as the programmes on Hit Radio were targetted for the youth, it was important to provide accurate and comprehensive news. The reduction of news airtime to three minutes would make it very difficult for reporters to fully discharge their duties. They questioned whether BA had fully discharged its duties in the incident and commented that BA should abolish its waiver in the licensing requirements for Metro Broadcast.
9. Mr LEUNG considered that the one-hour newscast to be introduced in September 1996 was not equivalent to a news programme and therefore did not include it in the calculation of total news airtime in the staff representatives submission.
10. Mr LEUNG added that the staff of Metro Broadcast had been working hard to discharge their duties. The drop in ratings was therefore not attributable to staff performance. He commented that the news programmes of Metro Broadcast were mostly in English, while the vast majority of Hong Kong population was Chinese.
Meeting with Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA)
11. Mr LIU Kin-ming presented the views of HKJA as follows:
- HKJA was sympathetic to the newsroom staff of Metro Broadcast involved in the incident.
- The decision on whether to approve waiver for Metro Broadcast should not be based on the statistics of complaints. It should not be entirely commercial-based.
- The Administration should be more pro-active in monitoring the broadcasting service of radio stations.
- HKJA expressed concern on a newspaper report that BA would not particularly discuss the incident at its meeting on 8 August 1996, as the meeting was only for routine business.
- HKJA hoped that the incident would draw the publics attention to the Administrations mid-term review on Metro Broadcast in 1997.
- HKJA was concerned that the proposed newscast of Metro Broadcast might be inclined towards entertainment nature.
Meeting with the Administration
12. Mrs Rita LAU explained that the BA was represented by the Commissioner for TELA at this meeting, as the decisions and policies of the BA were executed and implemented by TELA. She presented the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration and made the following points:
- The Governments regulatory policy on radio broadcasting was to keep Government intervention to the minimum, and allow for the greatest creative flexibility to licensees within the terms of their licences.
- TELA, being the executive arm of BA, had carried out a number of reviews on Metro Broadcasts arrangements for news broadcast.
- The exemptions granted to Metro Broadcast in relation to Clauses 28.1(a) and (b) were not permanent and were subject to review by the BA.
- The BA would look into the incident at its forthcoming meeting and review whether the current exemption granted to Metro Broadcast should continue.
- The Governments language policy was to encourage the continued use of English, as Hong Kong was an international city where both English and Chinese were official languages. Moreover, it would provide students the opportunity to learn English and acquire information at the same time.
13. Regarding the news report mentioned by Mr LIU Kin-ming in paragraph 11(d), Mr Peter CHEUNG clarified that he had actually told the reporter that the meeting of BA on 8 August 1996 was a regular meeting and the incident of Metro Broadcast would be discussed. He stated that the licensing requirement for news airtime of Metro Broadcast was calculated on an individual radio channel basis, while that for Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Company Limited (Commercial Radio) was calculated on a collective basis. There were plans to change the news airtime requirement for Commercial Radio to individual radio channel basis in the next review of its licence.
14. In response to Mr Lawrence YUM, Mr CHEUNG stated that reference would be made to precedents in determining whether a programme was a news programme.
15. Mr Andrew CHENG suggested the Administration to consider conducting a survey on the news quality and quantity of Metro Broadcast. In response, Mr CHEUNG stated that a survey conducted in 1995 had revealed low ratings for Metro Broadcast and the findings of the survey could be disclosed in confidence to Panel members. In the mid-term review of Metro Broadcast, a public hearing would be organised. While there was a practice to conduct a survey in each mid-term review, there was no plan to conduct another survey on Metro Broadcast, as the last review had just been completed.
(Post-meeting note : The findings of the survey were disclosed in confidence to attending members immediately after the meeting.)
16. Mr Bruce LIU questioned why the Administration had stipulated Clauses 28.1 (a) and (b) in the licence of Metro Broadcast and then waived the conditions. He commented that the Administration should abolish its waiver for Metro Broadcast. He added that the requirement of half-hourly broadcast of news might be revised to more comprehensive coverage at some specified time. Mrs Rita LAU responded that the waiver arrangement would allow flexibility for BA in exercising its discretion on each individual case. However, Mr LIUs suggestions would be considered in the mid-term review on Metro Broadcast.
17. Mrs Elizabeth WONG commented that news airtime of three-minute duration was inadequate, as this would only allow news headlines to be covered. She added that English news should not totally replace news in Chinese. In response, Mrs Rita LAU clarified that the Administration considered that English and Chinese news were equally important.
18. The Chairman requested the Administration to keep the Panel informed of developments on the subject at the BAs meeting on 8 August 1996 on the subject.
(Post-meeting note : At its meeting on 8 August 1996, the Broadcasting Authority reviewed its earlier decisions to grant exemptions to Metro Broadcast in respect of Clauses 28.1(a) and (b) of its licence, and decided :
- to maintain the exemptions granted to Metro Broadcast in respect of minimum requirements for news on its FM channels;
- to hold Metro Broadcast to its promise that no further changes to its revised arrangement for news programmes would be intorduced without full consultation with the BA; and
- to review thoroughly Metro Broadcasts licence conditions on news programmes in the context of its mid-term review. Public views would be invited in a public hearing to be held in January next year.)
19. The meeting ended at 4:05 p.m.
18 September 1996
Last Updated on 20 Aug, 1998