TV Censorship in Hong Kong

Does Hong Kong have television censorship?  Yes, there is but it is typically benign.  Broadcast television freuencies are public assets which are granted by a licensing process to qualified entities who are expected to behave responsibly.  As much as one would like to have total freedom of media, I don't think anyone is going for a television broadcaster advocating the armed insurrection to overthrow a democratically elected government, or to show snuff films.

In Hong Kong, television viewers may file their complains with television programs with the Broadcasting Authority.  Based upon the type and degree of violation, the Broadcasting Authority may take one of seven levels of actions.  There are four categories for less serious violations.  The first and second categories are 'advice' and 'strong advice' in which the licensee is reminded that they should observe the related articles.  If the Broacasting Authority has concern about the matter, then the third and fourth categories are 'warning' and 'severe warning' to the licensee not to transgress again.

There are three categories for the more serious offenses.  The licensee may be fined.  In the most serious case, the Broadcasting Authority may temporarily suspend the operating license and then recommend to the Secretary and Legislative Council for permanent removal.

In this light, it is easier to read the following article about the censuring of TVB

(Hong Kong Standard)  TVB rethinks after censure by watchdog, by Paris Lord.  May 25, 2004.

Television Broadcasters Limited (TVB) may review its broadcasting of the 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards and might delay its showing of the presentation, a company spokeswoman said yesterday.

The proposal followed a ruling by the Broadcasting Authority yesterday that when the Jade channel showed the awards live on April 4, it switched from acceptance speeches to advertisements in a way the authority considered was "not natural''.

Some 409 outraged viewers complained to the authority, especially furious at the cutting of Andy Lau Tak-wah's acceptance speech for the best actor prize, and those behind the best film, Running on Karma.

It was second highest number of complaints received by the authority. About three years ago, more than 1,000 people complained about a television advertisement by the Sunday mobile phone company featuring a ghost and a taxi, an authority spokeswoman said yesterday.

"The [authority] considered that the award winners' speeches were edited at the expense of viewers' interest, rendering the commercial breaks within the programme not natural,'' the authority said yesterday.

"The broadcast of advertisements in such breaks was in breach of the provision governing advertising breaks.''

The authority also said the "abrupt termination'' of the programme made the last segment ``not in the interest of better viewing and presentation'' and told TVB to pay more attention to the relevant Codes of Practice.

Last month, TVB defended itself, saying while it had scheduled 112 minutes for the show, it ran for 125 minutes, giving it no choice but to cut to contracted commercials and a news programme before the awards' end.

Hong Kong Film Awards Association board of directors chairman Manfred Wong initially blamed TVB for the cutting, but then admitted the association had produced a show longer than the time allocated.

The authority also ruled on 22 complaints received after the March 25 screening of a promotion for the "Miss Hong Kong Recruitment'' broadcast. The promo depicted a teacher's life as boring compared with the "glamorous'' life of being Miss Hong Kong, the authority said.

It considered "such portrayal had a denigrating effect on the teaching profession and exerted a bad influence on young viewers''. The authority "strongly advised'' TVB to review the relevant rules prohibiting denigration on the basis of social status.

"TVB accepts and respects the rulings,'' a TVB spokeswoman said. As far as the awards show went, ''one solution'' might be to delay the broadcast.

This reporter is being extremely charitable.  One of the contributing reason for the overrun in the awards show was that Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive gave an unscheduled speech while handing out the award for The Best Asian Film.  Can you imagine if they decided to cut Tung off instead?

As for the Miss Hong Kong promotion, this was a dumb and unnecessary move.  The 2001 Miss Hong Kong Shirley Yeung was an authentic teacher before winning, and so she played herself.  She said, "I had no idea that this segment would cause such a huge misunderstanding.  TVB originally wanted to use this segment to get more pretty teachers to enter the contest.  I am really sorry that it came out this way."

The president of the Hong Kong Educational Professionals Society Cheung Man-Kwong talked straight: "The Broadcasting Authority took the correct action, but TVB was also correct in trying to make Miss Hong Kong look appealing.  But it was inappropriate to single out those in the educational field, because it may cause misperceptions by the people.  This is not directed towards teachers as such.  The whole point was that most other professions do not seem as good as being Miss Hong Kong."

Video frame capture of Shirley Yeung
in front of a classroom blackboard on which the words 
for 'rigid and boring" were written