China media mogul Li Ruigang’s takeover of a free-to-air Hong Kong station with a dominant share of the market has left Hongkongers worried that political messages from China will pollute local airwaves.
Li, 46, indirectly secured the controlling stake in Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) on April 22 through his investment in Young Lion Holdings. TVB chairman Charles Chan, non-executive director Cher Wong, and Providence Equity Partners previously controlled Young Lion Holdings, which has 26 percent of TVB’s voting shares.
Li is known as the “Rupert Murdoch of China” because he has made a number of prominent media deals in China that could potentially transform the media landscape in the mainland.
Incidentally, the founding chairman of the state-sponsored equity fund China Media Capital and chairman of Chinese media conglomerate Shanghai Media Group is a friend of Rupert Murdoch, according to the South China Morning Post.
Hongkongers aren’t particularly cheered that a powerful Chinese media tycoon and high-ranking Communist Party official in the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee now owns one of two free-to-air television stations in the territory.
“The Hong Kong government and Chinese regime are intending to bring communist ideology into people’s homes through the free station,” said local lawmaker Claudia Mo to Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily. “Li will control the station. It is a struggle of ideologies. This is a trend that we cannot escape. Hong Kong people have to open their eyes to this.”
Hu Liyun, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) representative in Hong Kong and China told New York-based broadcaster New Tang Dynasty Television: “Li is obviously a businessman, but his Party background makes his impartiality very suspect. Whether or not he uses his majority stake to influence news information is a question.”
Hongkongers have the right to be worried about their free-to-air television content because TVB will be the only such broadcaster next year. In April, the Hong Kong government decided not to extend the license of free-to-air station Asia Television, Hong Kong’s oldest broadcaster.