Hong Kong’s main free-to-air broadcaster got a warning on Tuesday over its “inaccurate” reports that the Department of Justice had dropped a case involving HK$50 million (US$6.3 million) in payments made by an Australian engineering firm to a former city leader.
The Communications Authority said in a statement that Television Broadcasts (TVB) had breached the code of practice on programme standards stipulating that news be presented “with accuracy and due impartiality”.
Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s chief executive from 2012 to 2017, struck the lucrative deal following engineering firm UGL’s 2011 purchase of DTZ, a property services company once listed in Britain and of which he was a director. In the deal, Leung agreed not to form or join a rival firm and to help promote the company. He received part of the HK$50 million after becoming chief executive in 2012, but he did not declare any of the fee to his cabinet, the Executive Council.
Leung’s failure to declare the deal sparked controversy when it came to light in 2014, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Legislative Council investigated the matter for possible conflicts of interest.
TVB’s reports on February 17 this year quoted sources suggesting the department’s lawyers decided not to prosecute Leung after consulting a senior barrister in Britain it had hired.
But a department spokesman clarified the next day it had not decided “whether to institute any prosecution” in the case.
Asked on Tuesday whether the case had been concluded, the Department of Justice said “it would not comment on the matter”.
The Communications Authority also disclosed it had received eight public complaints saying the broadcaster’s report was “inaccurate and that the station failed to rectify” it. The authority ruled the complaints about inaccuracy were justified, even though TVB later corrected the error.
The department “had not been approached by TVB” before the reports under complaint were broadcast or after justice officials’ response was released, the statement read.
“Although TVB had asserted that the relevant reports were accurate at the time of broadcast, it did not submit any information to substantiate such an assertion.”
The authority added the broadcaster had failed to provide any information showing it had “made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy of the factual contents of its news reports”, thus breaching the programme code.
It decided TVB “should be warned to observe more closely the relevant provisions”.
Leung is now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body.
On Tuesday, TVB did not cover the authority’s warning during its news round-up at 6.30pm. A source said the broadcaster would also not cover it later in the evening.
The Post has contacted TVB for comment.
Asked if there had been any progress on the UGL case, and specifically whether it had been concluded, the Department of Justice said “it would not comment on the matter”.
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum
This article TVB warned over ‘inaccurate’ reports on ex-Hong Kong leader CY Leung’s HK$50 million UGL deal first appeared on South China Morning Post