ATV sinks from crisis to farce as it offloads new CEO

16 Dec 2008

It's less than two weeks since two telco execs took over the top posts at Hong Kong's ATV. Since then the perennially struggling free-to-air station has plunged from crisis into farce.

Newly-appointed chairman Linus Cheung announced Monday that equally newly-hired CEO Ricky Wong had tendered his resignation. Cheung, 60, a former CEO of Cathay Pacific and Hongkong Telecom, attributed Wong's resignation to "irreconcilable differences".

Hours later, however, CTI, the broadband and IDD firm that Wong co-founded and chairs, issued a statement denying he had resigned.

If Wong hasn't been sacked yet, it's surely only a matter of hours, although presumably the board will need something in writing, eventually.

Cheung's bombshell news came at a press conference dealing with "irregularities" in the judging of the Miss Asia Pageant. But he said Wong's (alleged)) departure was not connected with that affair, which predated the arrival of both men at the station.

There is some speculation that Wong's ownership of CTI's IPTV service might put him foul of the local cross-media laws.

But almost certainly it was his indiscrete remarks on ATV's pro-Beijing coverage, and his promise to sex up the news, that has put the frighteners up its owners, the Cha family, and apparently some advertisers.

Wong told his first press conference ATV would not be run like Beijing's CCTV - reportedly prompting some mainland advertisers to pull their ads, reported.

And in comments posted on YouTube, Linus Cheung told staff the station's news coverage not be like that of pro-Beijing titles such as Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

Since the two men arrived at the station on December 4, four senior staff, including two in the news department, have resigned. One has returned, and a Ming Pao headline said the ATV news department had heaved "a sigh of relief" on news of Wong's exit.

So the status quo returns at the loss-making broadcaster. To pursue his TV revolution, Ricky Wong will have to wage guerilla war through Hong Kong's suburbs with his Ethernet network.

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