Media of Hong Kong
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Media in Hong Kong are available to the public in the forms of: television and radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. They serve the local community by providing necessary information and entertainment.
Hong Kong is home to many of Asia's biggest media entities and remains one of the world's largest film industries. The loose regulation over the establishment of a newspaper makes Hong Kong home to many international media such as the Asian Wall Street Journal and Far Eastern Economic Review, and publications with anti-Communist backgrounds such as The Epoch Times (which is funded by Falun Gong). It also once had numerous newspapers funded by Kuomintang of Taiwan but all of them were terminated due to poor financial performance. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong publishes Kung Kao Po, a weekly newspaper. Apple Daily and Oriental Daily News are the two best selling newspapers, according to AC Nielsen, accounting for more than 60% of readership. Both are known for their anti-Hong Kong government political positions, colourful presentations and sensational news reportage. Whereas Apple Daily is strongly regarded as pro-democracy, Oriental Daily is inclined to be pro-China government. Traditional PRC government-friendly journals, Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, are owned by the Central Government Liaison Office. In December 2015, the South China Morning Post – Hong Kong's newspaper of record – was acquired by the Alibaba Group, with the declared aim of promoting an alternative pro-China narrative to international media.
The freedom of press is protected by the Bill of Rights, in contrast to the rest of China where control over media is pervasive. However, this freedom has been in decline since the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. According to the Reporters Without Borders, Hong Kong enjoyed "real press freedom" and ranked second in Asia after Japan in the Press Freedom Index, although it has been rapidly declining. Different views over topics sensitive in mainland China, such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, and democracy are still dynamically discussed among the media. Many books banned in China, such as the memoir of Zhao Ziyang, a former CCP party leader who stepped down in 1989, continue to be published in Hong Kong.
In 2002, Hong Kong had:
- Daily newspapers: 54
- Chinese-language dailies: 27
- English-language dailies: 3
- English-language newspapers publishing 5 or 6 days a week: 6
- Bilingual dailies: 5
- Newspapers in other languages: 7
- Free-to-air commercial TV companies: 3
- Subscription TV licensees: 4
- Non-domestic television programme licensees: 12
- Government radio-television station: 1
- Commercial radio stations: 2
- Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority (BA) regulates broadcasters in Hong Kong by licensing and penalties according to the Broadcasting Regulation.
- Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) is responsible for monitoring television and radio broadcasting to secure proper standards.
- Radio Television Hong Kong, operates as an independent government department.
- Press Council was established in July 2000. The objective of the Council is to promote the professional and ethical standards of the newspaper industry, defend press freedom, and deal with public complaints against local newspapers. It is an independent organisation.
Freedom of the press and publication are enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, and are also protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) under Article 39 of the Basic Law.
There is no law called "media law" in Hong Kong. Instead, the media are governed by statutory laws. In brief, there are 31 Ordinances that are directly related to mass media. Six of which are highlighted below.
- Registration of Local Newspapers Ordinance (Cap. 268), provides for the registration of local newspapers and news agencies and the licensing of newspaper distributors.
- Books Registration Ordinance (Cap. 142) (Cap. 106), provides for the registration and preservation of copies of books first printed, produced or published in Hong Kong.
- Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106), makes better provision for the licensing and control of telecommunications, telecommunications services and telecommunications apparatus and equipment.
- Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390) controls and classifies articles which consist of or contain material that is obscene or indecent. Obscene Articles Tribunals are established to determine whether an article is obscene or indecent.
- Broadcasting Authority Ordinance (Cap. 391), provides for the establishment and functions of a Broadcasting Authority.
- Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562), licenses companies to provide broadcasting services and regulate the provision of broadcasting services by licensees.
The rest of the Ordinances are of less importance since they do not aim at regulating mass media, but some of their provisions do affect the operation of media organisations and also the freedom of press.
The passing of Bill of Rights Ordinance (BORO) in 1986 strengthened the protection of fundamental human rights like press freedom or freedom of speech. This has been reflected in the loosening of control over mass media. Laws that violate the principle of press freedom are gradually amended. For example, section 27 of Public Order Ordinance, which criminalised the publishing of false news, was repealed in 1989.
Nonetheless, there are still concerns among the media sector that some existing laws may still undermine the freedom of the press and publication, e.g. Official Secrets Ordinance (Cap. 521) and Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245).
Hong Kong has two broadcast television stations, ATV and TVB. The latter, launched in 1967, was the territory's first free-to-air commercial station, and is currently the predominant TV station in the territory. Paid cable and satellite television have also been widespread. The production of Hong Kong's soap drama, comedy series and variety shows have reached mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Many international and pan-Asian broadcasters are based in Hong Kong, including News Corporation's STAR TV. Hong Kong's terrestrial commercial TV networks, TVB and ATV, can also be seen in neighbouring Guangdong and Macau (via cable).
However, ATV has seen a gradual decline in production quality and audience rating in recent years and faces financial difficulties. Its false report of death of Jiang Zemin severely damaged its credibility. On 1 April 2015, Hong Kong's Executive Council gave notice that ATV's terrestrial television licence would not be renewed and that it would instead end on 1 April 2016. RTHK and newcomer HKTVE (owned by Richard Li's PCCW which also owns the IPTV service Now TV) took over the frequencies of ATV since April 2, 2016.
- Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) – government-funded, operates seven networks in Cantonese, Mandarin and English
- Commercial Radio (CR) – operates CR1, CR2 networks in Cantonese and mediumwave (AM) English-language station AM 864
- Metro Radio Hong Kong (MRHK) – operates Metro Showbiz, Metro Finance and English-language Metro Plus
Sino United Publishing, formed in 1988 through merger of some of the historic publishing agencies, is Hong Kong's largest integrated publishing group. It has an estimated 80% share of the book publishing market. It is Hong Kong's largest Chinese-language publishing group, has 51 retail outlets in the territory, and is wholly owned by Central Government Liaison Office, which also owns newspaper titles Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po.
The Chinese language newspapers Headline Daily, Oriental Daily News, Apple Daily and Sun Daily have the highest shares in the Hong Kong newspaper market, while the Hong Kong Economic Times is the best-selling financial newspaper. The Standard, a free tabloid with a mass market strategy, is the most widely circulated English newspaper by a significant margin. Its rival, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's newspaper of record, has the most paid subscribers among English-language papers in Hong Kong. Since its purchase by Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok's Kerry Media The South China Morning Post has gradually become pro-China, pro-establishment publication. It was announced on 11 December 2015 that Alibaba Group would acquire the South China Morning Post from Robert Kuok, who has owned it since 1993. Alibaba said that the acquisition was made out of the desire to improve China's image in light of the western bias of the journal.
- Next Magazine
- East Touch
- East Week
- Fashion & Beauty
- Sudden Weekly
- Ming Pao Weekly
- U Magazine
- Weekend Weekly
- Three Weekly
- New Monday
- Whiz Kids Express Weekly
- Capital Weekly
- HK Magazine
- Harper's Bazaar
- Elle Men
- Esquire 《君子雜誌》
- Men's Uno
- Marie Claire 《瑪利嘉兒》
- Capital CEO
- Capital Entrepreneur
- Hong Kong Tatler
- City Magazine 《號外》
- Cheng Ming Magazine 《爭鳴》
- Sai Kung Magazine
- BC Magazine
- BOOM Magazine
- Marketing Magazine
- CarPlus 《車王》
- PCM 《電腦廣場》
- CAZBuyer 《車買家》
- Spiral 《游絲腕表》
- CUP Magazine 《茶杯雜誌》
- Prestige Hong Kong
- The Young Reporter
- San Po Yan《新報人》
- BENCHMARK Magazine（指標）
Public space media
- Initium Media (端傳媒) (Chinese)
- The News Lens (關鍵評論網) (Bilingual news in English & Chinese)
- EJInsight – English service of the Hong Kong Economic Journal
- EP21.org (網政21)(Chinese) (Service ceased)
- HK Magazine / Asia City Media Group
- HIRADIO HK (係播網絡電台)(Chinese/English) (Service suspend)
- Hong Kong Free Press (English)
- Hong Kong In-media (香港獨立媒體網) (Chinese)
- Hong Kong Television Network, online, since HK Government controversially denied terrestrial broadcast licence in 2013
- House News (主場新聞) (Service ceased on 26 July 2014)
- "IBHK"(香港網絡廣播電台) / Online radio station. (Cantonese)
- Localiiz (English)
- Lifestyle Asia (English)
- Local Press (本土新聞) (Chinese)
- Open Radio Hong Kong (開台)(Chinese)
- Passion Times (熱血時報) (Chinese)
- People's Radio Hong Kong (香港人民廣播電台)(Chinese) (Service ceased)
- Post 852 (852 郵報) (Chinese)
- Rhea (English)
- TALKONLY.net (講台)(Chinese)
- The Real Hong Kong News (English)
- United Social Press (社媒) (mostly Chinese)
- VJ Media (Chinese)
- WardrobeTrendsFashion (English)
- FactWire – a non-profit news agency
- Next Media
- Sing Tao News Corporation Limited
- SCMP Group
- Sino United Publishing – Hong Kong's largest Chinese publishing group, which has 51 retail outlets in the territory.
Although media freedom in Hong Kong is theoretically guaranteed by a bill of rights, the perceived freedom of the Hong Kong media according to the World Press Freedom Index ranks 61st out of 180 countries in 2014, having slid from 18th place in 2002. Concerns have been brought about by a number of factors and high-profile incidents affecting the media. Pundits and journalists alike have been alarmed at the erosion of journalists' ability to report the news in an objective manner. Journalists have complained about sensitive news stories critical of the government that they have been under undisguised pressure to change or soften. There has also been pressure on organisations including major financial institutions to pull advertising from newspapers that take a pro-democracy or anti-government stance, and the brazen attack on a respected newspaper editor; All told, the incidence of censorship, political pressure to self-censor and intimidation is increasing, according to PEN American Center and the International Federation of Journalists. The Hong Kong Journalists Association noted that there were at least 28 attacks on journalists covering the Umbrella Revolution. The aggressive moves made by publishing houses controlled by Sino United Publishing against independent publishers particularly since the 2014 protests, the unexplained disappearance in 2015 of four individuals linked to an independent publisher of sensitive books, as well as the acquisition of Hong Kong's newspaper of record by Alibaba Group all increased fears of political encroachment on press freedom by parties closely linked to the communist regime.
Ethical studies have been conducted by four journalism groups (Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong News Executives' Association, Hong Kong Federation of Journalists, Hong Kong Press Photographers' Association). They could not deny the fact that the mass media were suffering decreasing respect of Hong Kong citizens. Journalism was no longer seen as a respectable profession. The public had little trust in newspapers. The news industry attributed this phenomenon to the citizens' complaints about the decreasing ethics of journalists.
Stories were exaggerated often violating privacy. A study was conducted by Hong Kong Journalists Association in early 2007 to find that 58.4% of journalists in Hong Kong considered that the degree of freedom of speech had decreased since the handover in 1997. Furthermore, nearly 60% of the interviewed journalists also thought that more self-censorship had been practised then than 1997. Thirty percent of media workers participating in the survey admitted to having self-censored, and some forty percent knew of colleagues who had practised self-censorship. The chairman of the HKJA pointed out that after this self-censorship of media is related to political and economic pressures traceable linked to the Communist Party of China (CPC). She suggested that many media owners are representatives of the National People's Congress, have investments or eye investment opportunities in the mainland and are reluctant to jeopardise the political relationship.
On 19 October 1998, a woman killed her two young children by pushing them out of a window from a high-rise building and then jumped to kill herself. The husband Chan Kin Hong was widely reported to have little remorse on their death, saying he has "high libido" but his wife lost sexual drive after giving a birth to the latest baby and he had to visit prostitutes regularly. He also met another woman and planned to have his new life.
He caused a significant public outcry. Some days later, Apple Daily published a front-page photograph showing Chan with two prostitutes soon after his family's deaths. It was later revealed that the newspaper had paid Chan to pose for the photograph and the newspaper subsequently published a front-page apology.
This incident and other concerns over increasingly aggressive news coverage and paparazzi in the intensive media battles for readers and viewers began widespread public discussions regarding press practices and accompanying ethical concerns that continue to this day over issues of privacy, responsible reporting and journalistic standards.
In 2003, the government attempted to implement the Article 23 of the Basic Law which prohibits crimes against national security and sedition. The bill states that it is a legal offence for media to be seditious and disclose national secrets, but the vague definition led to concerns that it may become a political tool for accusing dissidents' voices, as has happened in Mainland China.
The bill caused a significant public outrage and a mass demonstration of 500,000 people, forcing the government to withdraw the bill and several cabinet members to step down.
Capitalising on victims
Some nude photos of actress Carina Lau were distributed in East Magazine, and then Three Weekly in the span of a week. The photos were claimed to be taken in the early 90s when that actress was kidnapped. Though people from all social strata have shouted themselves hoarse to call on citizens to boycott the publications, many bought and read them even while condemning them for corrupting public morality. Those issues sold very well. Media ethics were raised as a hot topic; people investing in or working for "vile" publications were much criticised. As the public pressure grew, East Magazine finally ended publication.
Invasion of privacy
In August 2006, Gillian Chung of the local pop duo Twins filed a writ against Easyfinder Magazine for publishing photos of her changing backstage at a concert in Malaysia. This raised another media ethics and aggressive paparazzi concern. And again, the magazine sold well, printing two runs of the magazine, selling out twice.
The Hong Kong Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority received 2875 complaints regarding the revealing photos and the incident was referred to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for further action. On 1 November 2006, Easy Finder lost its appeal against an obscenity ruling on the published article and pictures. The appeal panel upheld the judgement, declaring the article "obscene", and saying it was a "calculated act of selling sexuality which is corrupting and revolting".
Violent assault on editor
Kevin Lau, who had been chief editor of the journal until January 2014, was attacked in the morning of 26 February 2014 as he was about to take breakfast at a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong. He was seriously injured in a targeted knife attack. Journalists and press of the world saw the attack as an attack on press freedom. Thousands of people, led by leading journalists, attended a rally to denounce violence and intimidation of the media.
Siege of Apple Daily and attacks aimed at media owner
During the Umbrella revolution in 2014, anti-occupation protesters besieged the headquarters of Next Media, publisher of Apple Daily. They accused the paper of biased reporting. Masked men among the protesters prevented the loading of copies of Apple Daily as well as The New York Times onto delivery vans. Apple Daily sought a court injunction and a High Court judge issued a temporary order to prevent any blocking of the entrance.
On 12 November, media tycoon Jimmy Lai was the target of an offal attack at the occupied Admiralty site by three men, who were detained by volunteer marshalls for the protest site. The offices of Next Media and the home of Jimmy Lai, who controls the group, were fire-bombed in mid January 2015.
2015 Policy address controversy
In the opening and concluding parts of his 2015 policy address, CY Leung attacked University of Hong Kong Students' Union publication, Undergrad, for allegedly advocating independence and self-determination for Hong Kong. He also criticised another HKU publication, from 2013, entitled Hong Kong Nationalism. He was criticised by pan-democrats and commentators for using the high-profile public address in an unprecedented attempt to undermine free speech and theoretical academic discussion by effectively declaring discussion of the topic "taboo". The number two and number three government officials, Carrie Lam and John Tsang respectively, distanced themselves from Leung, suggesting that Leung's controversial criticism of the magazines was personal and written by Leung himself; Leung insisted it was a team effort.
Sino United returns controversy
In January 2015, following CY Leung's attack on a compilation book entitled Hong Kong Nationalism, Joint Publishing, Chongwa, and Commercial Press – all owned by Sino United Publishing – de-listed the title. Hong Kong media reported that Sino had published and was distributing at least five anti-Occupy titles, and its stores were displaying these prominently, whereas popular books on the Umbrella movement by pro-democracy authors had been banished from their shelves. In March 2015, Up Publications, a small independent publishing house, complained that it was suddenly and unexpectedly faced with a large number of returns from the three main subsidiaries of Sino. Twenty titles were affected by the returns, to the serious detriment to the finances of Up Publications; many of the titles returned were not politically themed. The publisher was allegedly told by a bookshop source that its stance in the 2014 occupation and its publishing of books supportive of the Umbrella Movement were responsible. Although no reason was given for the returns, political motives were suspected as two of the delisted books about the occupation were strong sellers at independent bookshops.
The disappearances of five Hong Kong people related to an independent publisher and bookstore in October to December 2015 precipitated an international outcry. The unprecedented disappearance of a person in Hong Kong, and the bizarre events surrounding it, shocked the city and crystallised international concern over the possible abduction of Hong Kong citizens by Chinese public security bureau officials and their likely rendition, and the violation of several articles of the Basic Law and the one country, two systems principle. There is widespread suspicion that they are under detention in mainland China.
- Newspapers of China
- Censorship in Hong Kong
- Communications in Hong Kong
- Media of the People's Republic of China
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