Last week, iMediaEthics wrote about the two Hong Kong journalists who resigned after the station, Asia Television Ltd, aired a fake news report claiming a former Chinese president had died.
We wrote to Hong Kong’s Broadcasting Authority (BA) for more information about the complaints it has received over the fake news story and for more information about the broadcasting complaints process.
Esther Fong, a public relations manger for the authority told iMediaEthics that the BA has received 41 complaints about the July 6 fake news story. The authority is looking into both the fake report and “the role of Wong Ching in ATV’s management, including his role in the news report in question,” Fong wrote. (Wong Ching is an “investor” in the network.) Fong noted that the authority cannot comment on the investigation until it has been completed.
According to Fong, the BA is “an independent statutory regulator of broadcasting services.” She noted it “does not interfere with the day-to-day operation, including the relationship between its management and news department and editorial appointments.” The BA has established standards on “accuracy, impartiality and fairness in news and current affairs programmes.”
Standards include prohibiting publication of “material which is indecent, obscene or of bad taste,” and advice on the portrayal of “decency and decorum,” “human relationships,” crime and sexuality. Media outlets licensed by the BA are banned from airing “attacks on any established religious faiths or beliefs.”
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According to the complaints process, which Fong provided to StinkyJournalism, the BA looks at “facts” and “possible breaches of the legislation, license conditions or Code of Practice” when examining complaints. Before the BA decides on complaints, the media outlets may “make representations either orally or in writing or both” to the BA.
The BACC, which is the Broadcasting Authority’s complaints committee, “normally meets once a month,” and is made up of 12 appointed members. The committee’s “recommendations” about the complaint will be reviewed by the authority as a whole and in some cases, the results of the BA’s review will “automatically become the BA’s final decisions.”
According to the complaints policy, the BA “may take 4 months” to tell the complainant its ruling.
The BA’s website notes the BA has five possible “sanctions” when a broadcaster has violated the code. Sanctions include “advice or strong advice,” “warning to serious warning,” a requirement for the news outlet to correct or apologize for its report, a “financial penalty,” or a “suspension of revocation of license.”