Commercial Television (Hong Kong TV station)
|Founded||September 7, 1975|
|Defunct||October 19, 1978 (3 years, 42 days)|
|Headquarters||1A Broadcast Drive, Kowloon, Hong Kong|
Number of employees
In 1973, the Hong Kong government issued licences for additional terrestrial television broadcasters, ending TVB's six-year monopoly as the sole free-to-air television company in Hong Kong. A group of shareholders formed a consortium (Commercial Television) to contest the licence; the six major shareholders were Commercial Radio, Jardines, Sing Tao Daily, Wah Kiu Yat Pao, The Kung Sheung Daily News, and the Lam family (one of the founders of Hang Seng Bank).
The licences were awarded on August 10, with Rediffusion Television receiving licences for two television stations (one broadcasting in Cantonese and the other in English), while Commercial Television only received one licence for a station broadcasting in Cantonese.
The station launched at 6:00 pm on September 7, 1975. Its logo was a hexagon formed from six angled lines, representing the Six Arts (禮樂射御書數) in Confucian philosophy, as well as the six major stakeholders. At the time, the station was reportedly mocked for using the Six Arts as the inspiration for its logo, as 御書數 (Charioteering, Calligraphy and Mathematics) in Cantonese sounds similar to the phrase 預輸數 (predicted/prepared for defeat).
One of the station's licensing conditions was to air two hours of educational programming every week night, with no commercial interruptions. Such programming on the station was primarily oriented at adults, covering topics such as automechanics, interior design, and foreign languages. The station struggled to break even as a result of this requirement. An attempt was made to resurrect the failing station in July 1976 when Selina Chow, then Assistant general manager of TVB was drafted in as its new general manager. A significant amount of money was spent on producing drama series; The number of staff trebled, and the cash-burn rate escalated under Chow.
On August 21, 1978, the station announced it was ending its operations, its 800 staff were laid off and the company was declared bankrupt on October 19. Following the station's collapse, the government concluded that a third commercial television station "did not appear viable".
For over three decades after Commercial Television's demise, TVB and Rediffusion Television (later Asia Television, now defunct) remained a duopoly of terrestrial TV broadcasters in Hong Kong. ATV's license was not renewed in 2015, and ceased broadcasting just before midnight on April 1. 2016. ViuTV was issued a television license in 2015, and started a digital-only terrestrial television operation starting on April 2, 2016, using terrestrial television frequencies formerly used by ATV.
A third television license was issued in 2016 to Fantastic Television, but the station was not given over-the-air frequencies to broadcast its content.
Much blame flew around about the reasons for the failure. The Government was blamed for restrictive conditions of the licence; the management was blamed for bad programme scheduling and failing to control escalating costs; shareholders were blamed for having the short-term mentality of property developers. However, the Government blamed the collapse on the unwillingness of the shareholders to inject more capital, after it had spent its entire HK$20 million within one year. Many TV series were brought by TVB and ATV and TVB seldom rebroadcast them.
- Hong Kong Documentary Film, Ian Aitken, Michael Ingham, Edinburgh University Press, 2014, page 111
- Hong Kong 1974, Report for the year 1973, Hong Kong Government, 1974, p.149
- TVB programme "That Was Then", 2007
- Hong Kong 1976, Hong Kong Government, 1977, p.150
- Mary Lee, A licence to lose money, Far Eastern Economic Review, September 8, 1978
- Hong Kong 1977, Hong Kong Government, 1978, pp.143–144