Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Media in Hong Kong
Media in Hong Kong is available to the public conveniently in various forms, namely: television and radio channels, newspapers, magazines and the World Wide Web. They serve the local community by providing necessary information and entertainment.
In Hong Kong, the mass media is an indispensable part of people's lives. Not only does it affect the way people think and act, it also plays an active role in the economic and cultural domains of the society, shaping the economy and cultural values of the people. The mass media is also a kind of business. Just like other commercial utilities, mass media produce infotainment and sell it to the buyers (targeted audience) for profit.
Mass media in Hong Kong can be classified according to their nature into 3 categories:
- Printed media- Newspapers, magazines, books, etc.
- Electronic media- Television, radio broadcasting, etc.
- Internet- Yahoo, etc.
Legislation on the media industry
Freedom of the press and publication are enshrined in Art. 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 Art. 39 of the Basic Law.
There is no law called "media law" in Hong Kong. Instead, the media is governed by a bunch of statutory laws. In brief, there are 31 Ordinances that are directly related to mass media, 7 of which are more important. They includes Registration of Local Newspapers Ordinance (Cap. 286), Books Registration Ordinance (Cap. 142), Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106), Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390) Broadcasting Authority Ordinance (Cap. 391) and Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562).
- Registration of Local Newspapers Ordinance (Cap. 286) 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 31 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 organizations and also the freedom of the press.
The passing of Bill of Rights Ordinance(BORO) in 1986 strengthened the protection of fundamental human rights like press freedom, freedom of speech, etc. 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, s.27 of Public Order Ordinance, which criminalized publishing of false news, was repealed in 1989)
Nonetheless, there are still concerns among the media sectors that laws 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). On the other hand, the HKSAR Government considers that such laws do not violate the BORO and the constitutionally protected rights under the Basic Law.
Authorities enforcing relevant policies
- 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.
- Press Council was established in July 2000. The objective of the Council is to promote the professional and ethical standard of the newspaper industry, defense press freedom, and deal with public complaints against local newspapers. It is an independent organization funded by the newspapers and public donations, and its authority rests on the willingness of members to respect the Council's views, to adhere voluntarily to ethical standards and to admit mistakes publicly.(Adopted from Press Council Homepage)
Characteristic of Hong Kong's Mass Media
- Legally regulated
- Mass media in Hong Kong are regulated by an independent legal system. Therefore, media can seek mutual development on a fair platform. Legal regulations on the mass media also foster beneficial competition and effective administration. It also guarantees that practitioners can fully utilize their creativity and professional capacity to entertain the public and pose check on the government.
- Hong Kong's mass media is a kind of "culture industry", therefore it unavoidably takes profitability into account in its operation. Market investigation and audience/readers research are usual practice. To the audience and readers, they are customers to the mass media. As a result, the taste of the audience/readers have significant effect on the content of information/entertainment provided by the mass media.
- Hong Kong media are run under commercial principles. Market force plays an important role. Ratings largely determine the income of the media organizations. As a result, the audience in fact determine what is provided by the mass media. In face of the fierce competition in the media market and a large group of audience who have a strong favour towards leisury and entertaining readings/programmes, "infotainment" becomes the mainstream of the products of the mass media.
- As a product of a commercial city, the mass media of Hong Kong has the characteristics of other commercial institutes- prompt, responsive, quick. For example, when there is an car accident, reporters would arrive at the hospital earlier than the ambulance. The responsiveness is also demonstrated by the keen need of scoop. In order to get a scoop, reporters may use all means to obtain news. It is not unusually to hear/read about "sources said" in news reports. It is the nature of commercial media.
- A blend of press freedom and social responsibility
- Under the notions of press freedom and social responsibility, government intervention of the press in Hong Kong is minimal. At the same time, the mass media practitioners uphold self-discipline as a means to ensure that the others' rights are not adversely affected by the media. There is no government censorship of news in Hong Kong. People are free to criticize the government. Nonetheless, though the mass media is generally independent of any political powers, political powers have not given up the chance to affect the media. Occasionally we would hear Chinese officials criticizing Hong Kong media, saying that the media should give more support to the Government. The media have formed their own professional bodies, e.g. Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong News Executives' Association, etc., to guarantee the independence of the media. In respect of self-discipline, Hong Kong Press Council was setup in 2000 to handle complains from the public to the press.
- Private ownership
- Apart from RTHK and a few newspapers and magazines with supports from Mainland authority, most of the media corporations are private-owned. Furthermore, although RTHK is owned by the Hong Kong Government, it is not an "official channel". In fact, RTHK has always been under fire for its criticizing the government "too much" (in the eyes of the pro-China camp). In fact, a high degree of independence is maintained though under pressure.
Challenges faced by Media
In 1999, a survey on the mass media ethics was conducted by four journalists' 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 Hong Kong citizens' complaints about the decreasing ethics of journalists. This survey has revealed the problems that mass media industry is now facing.
Over 75% people were not satisfied with journalists' ethical behavior. 81% agreed that the journalists had injected too much violence and pornography into news reporting. 66% stated that there was a lack of accuracy in reporting. Stories were exaggerated and contorted to cater for the readers' taste. And 62% thought that journalists did not respect individual privacy. The victims were usually the super stars and celebrities.
However, Hong Kong people still had much concern about press freedom. In 2000, the 'United State Policy Act Report' pointed out that Hong Kong media still remained free and robust after reunification with China in 1997. Mass media had the absolute freedom to report and comment and criticise every event that happened in Hong Kong,Taiwan, Mainland China and other regions around the world. The majority did agree that the supervisory duty should not rely on the government. Over 60% support the proposal that a non-governmental organisation, composed by group of professional journalist should be set up for strict and close supervision. In view of this request of the public, Hong Kong Press Council, an independent organization, was founded in 2000 to promote the ethical stands of the newspaper industry, to fight for press freedom and to deal with public complaints.
Incidents with Impact
"Mr Chan Kin Hong (陳健康) Incident"
On 19 October 1998, a woman, together with her 2 children, jumped down from a tall building in Sheung Shui and died. The local media quickly turned their attention to Mr. Chan Kin Hong, the woman's husband. It was alleged that Mrs Chan committed suicide because her husband had taken another wife in mainland China. Chan then became the headlines of major newspapers and TV channels, being portrayed as both a disgraceful husband and a living example of trans-boundary marital problems between Hong Kong and mainland China.
During the media's wild chase of the story, the Apple Daily was so eager to outstrip its competitors that it posted a picture that ruined its reputation. In the picture Chan was holding 2 women, whom were said to be prostitutes, in his arms - all three were cuddling under a bedsheet inside a hotel room. On one hand public resentment against Chan reached its peak, but the readers could not help wondering, how did the Apple Daily manage to get this picture?
Later on it was found that the Apple Daily had paid Chan HK$5,000 for the story. [Alternative version of the story: the Apple Daily never paid Chan directly in cash, but their reporters paid for Chan's meals and "entertainment" expenses during the process of "reporting", including the fees for the prostitutes.] Finally, the Apple Daily posted a whole-page notice of apology on its front page on November 10, 1998.
The incident sparked off fierce criticism from other media, academics and the public. One of the issues of discussion was that, if journalists start to fabricate the very reality that they claim to report, or worse still, if they actively take part in creating social tragedies, journalism is parting from its ethics and social role. A tarnished reputation of media ethics left Hong Kong's freedom of press more vulnerable to the much-suspected censorship after 1997.
Spreading of false news during SARS period
On April Fools' Day in 2003, a 14-year-old pupil copied the design of the Ming Pao Web site to his own, wherein he announced that Hong Kong had been declared an "infected port", the Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa had stepped down and that the Hang Seng Index had plunged. Rumour had it that Hong Kong would be quarantined and cut off from supplies, which immediately sparked panic buying at supermarkets and prompted the government to issue an official denial in an emergency briefing and through SMS messages to mobile phone users. Newspapers overwhelmingly condemned the spread of misinformation in times of the SARS crisis. Ming Pao in particular demanded the punishment of the spread of false news in the public interest. This raised a discussion on the choice between freedom of speech and the public interest. The person who spread the rumor had subsequently been arrested.
The legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which concerns the prohibition of crimes against national security, has been one of the most controversial issues since the reunification of Hong Kong with Mainland China in 1997. Among the laws proposed to implement Article 23, the media were most concerned about the offences of handling seditious publications and unlawful disclosure of official secrets. There are worries among the media sector, as well as the legal and human rights groups, that the amendments would endanger the freedom of the press in Hong Kong.
In particular, the media sector had argued strongly for a "public interest defence" under the Official Secrets Ordinance (Cap. 521), the secrecy law of Hong Kong inherited from the United Kingdom, but the Government considered the defence not necessary and refused to add the defence. After a huge protest of up to 500,000 people in Hong Kong on July 1, 2003 to voice dissatisfaction against the legislation and the Government, the defence was finally accepted by the Government. Nevertheless, in a few days, the Government was forced to postpone the second and third readings of the Bill due to the resignation of Mr James Tien, Chairman of Liberal Party, from the Executive Council. Finally, on September 5, 2003, the Government announced withdrawal of the Bill.
Naked famous actress photos
Some naked photos of a famous actress were distributed in East Magazine, and in Three Weekly a week later. The photos were claimed to be taken in early 90's 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 morals; those issues of East Magazine and Three Weekly have sold very well. Such inconsistent behaviour has led to a situation qualified as deplorable by many. Media ethics were raised as a hot topic; people investing in or working for "vile" publications were much criticized. As the public pressure grew, East Magazine finally closed down.
- Daily newspapers: 52 (25 Chinese-language dailies, 4 English-language dailies, 8 English-language newspapers publishing 5 or 6 days a week, 7 bilingual dailies and 5 newspapers in other languages)
- Free-to-air commercial TV companies: 2
- Subscription TV licensees: 5
- Non-domestic television programme licensees: 12
- Government radio-television station: 1
- Commercial radio stations: 2
(by the end of year 2002)
- Asia Television Ltd (ATV) 
- Cable TV 
- Radio Television Hong Kong 
- Television Broadcasts Limited 
- Cheng Ming Magazine (爭鳴) 
- East Touch
- East Week
- Far Eastern Economic Review 
- HIM 
- HK Magazine
- Next Magazine
- The Mirror(鏡報) 
Public space media
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