Hong Kong’s oldest broadcaster has been fined HK$300,000 by the city’s communications watchdog for misreporting that its shares were sold to the owner of another TV station.

ATV reported at the end of March that Ricky Wong, the owner of new online TV channel HKTV, had bought shares in the cash-strapped station as it struggled to secure investors.

The news was reported on the channel’s 6:00pm news bulletins on March 31 and repeated on two other channels. However, Wong denied the reports the following day.

atv world tai po
Photo: Wikimedia.

A statement from the Communications Authority said they received 39 complaints from the public and that the news reports breached provisions in the Generic Code of Practice on Television Programme Standards.

The watchdog said the fine was imposed in light of “the severity of the lapse” and also because the broadcaster presented news about itself in an “inaccurate and misleading manner.”

It also acknowledged that the timing of the report was important since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was then deciding whether or not to renew ATV’s free-to-air broadcast license.

The statement stated that insufficient efforts were made to ensure the accuracy of the report and that ATV failed to mention either a response from HKTV nor the fact that Wong could not be reached for comment.

The Communications Authority also confirmed that the TV station would be fined an additional HK$50,000 for failing to submit audited accounts for 2014.

This is not the first time ATV has landed in hot water for inaccurate reporting; the broadcaster was fined HK$300,000 in 2011 for reporting that former Chinese president Jiang Zemin had died.

The beleaguered TV station has for months been plagued with a gradual decline in ratings and financial difficulties. Last year it was reported that ATV had breached employment regulations by failing to pay wages to its employees.

At the beginning of April this year, Hong Kong’s Executive Council confirmed that the broadcaster’s terrestrial TV licence would not be renewed when it expires at the end of November. ATV were given a one-year notice and will continue broadcasting until April 2016.

Vicky is a British-born Chinese journalist with three years of experience covering UK politics. She previously worked for PoliticsHome and has interned at Sky News and CNN International. She also co-produced and filmed a documentary about the Hong Kong protests for MSNBC, which won the grand student prize at the 2015 Human Rights Press Awards. She has a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading and moved to Hong Kong in 2014 to complete a journalism masters at the University of Hong Kong.