Free TV channels have more say in the shows

Jane Cheung

Hong Kong’s three free-to-air TV channels have been temporarily exempted from airing only locally made documentaries, current affairs and arts and culture programs after Covid hit the stations, including more than 500 Television employees Broadcast Ltd.

The exemption will last for three months until June 24.

Under licensing requirements, free-to-air television stations must produce a minimum airtime of local programming at specific times daily or weekly, including documentaries and current affairs and arts and culture programming, which are “entirely of Hong Kong descent”.

Programs must also be “first-runs” to ensure that stations do not continue to replay old shows and must continue to produce new ones on a regular basis.

Now both requirements will be waived for three months after stations were hit by Covid infections and suffered from labor shortages.

Stations must still respect a requirement on the hours of broadcast of these programs, but they will have the choice to broadcast imported productions instead of their own. The frequency of repeated programs will be limited to no more than once a week.

The Communications Authority announced the decision after TVB asked to waive both requirements on March 9, citing Covid as the main reason for the halt in TV program production.

“In view of the latest pandemic situation and the operational difficulties encountered by free-to-air television licensees, the CA has decided to approve the application,” a spokesperson said.

The waiver was also extended to two other free-to-air licensees: HK Television Entertainment Co Ltd and Fantastic Television Ltd.

Earlier this month, the authority waived similar requirements for free-to-air TV channels to carry locally made children’s programming, following a request from HK Television.

In a recent media interview, TVB’s general manager for content operations, Eric Tsang Chi-wai, admitted that more than 500 of the approximately 5,000 employees, including its artists, had been infected with Covid, forcing the suspension. program production.

“closed-loop management.”

Employees are said to live at the broadcaster’s headquarters in the Tseung Kwan O industrial zone for two to three weeks at a time, during which they are not allowed to return home or enter the community to minimize the risk of infection. similar to those of aircrew.

Of the 500 employees infected, only an extremely small proportion were infected at work, as the vast majority contracted the virus in their daily lives in the community or at home.

As of March 13, 45 workers have recovered from Covid and returned to the office, according to an internal memo.

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