Hong Kong protestors use TV row to channel anger

Hong Kong protestors use TV row to channel anger

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's decision not to grant a licence to a new TV operator has been met with an uproar that taps into deep mistrust of the government and concern for the city's stagnating popular culture, say analysts.

Thousands of demonstrators massed at government headquarters Wednesday night for the latest protest against a decision to award only two new free-to-air television licences.

What would likely be an uncontroversial issue elsewhere has become a lightning rod for public suspicion towards the territory's Beijing-appointed leadership and frustration over the waning cultural significance of the former movie powerhouse.

Hong Kong Television Network, a pay-TV service set up by self-made tycoon Ricky Wong, failed in its bid to secure a licence, the first to be offered in 40 years in a move to shake up local free-to-air programming. The company announced more than 300 job cuts following the October announcement.

The city of 7 million is currently served with two local free-to-air broadcasters and two subscription services - a situation that critics say is stifling creative output.

Hong Kong's move to grant permits to already established players i-Cable, a subsidiary of conglomerate Wharf Holdings, and Now TV, controlled by Li Ka-shing's billionaire son Richard, was criticised as favouring big business and going against the city's cherished free market principles.

"The underlying factor is the deep public mistrust towards the government, especially the non-transparent decision making process," Sonny Lo, social scientist at Hong Kong Institute of Education, told AFP.

Public frustration has manifested itself in increasingly fervent demonstrations since Hong Kong's unpopular Chief Executive C.Y. Leung took on the role in 2012.

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