The High Court has ruled that it will not stand in the way of actions taken by Asia Television (ATV)’s liquidator to shut down the station on Thursday afternoon, as ATV attempts to pull together a plan backed by investors in a last-ditch effort to keep the broadcast running.
The television broadcaster’s provisional liquidator, Deloitte, said on Monday that all of ATV’s employees will be laid off, but ATV approached the High Court in an attempt to stop the action.
The court asked ATV’s stakeholders to strike a deal with Deloitte, but on Thursday a lawyer representing Deloitte said that it had been unable to come to an agreement with creditor Wong Ching and ATV’s new investor, China Culture Media International’s Si Rongbin.
Justice Jonathan Harris said that ATV’s only remaining assets were its licence and its copyrights over its programmes. He saw no reason to keep the TV broadcaster running. He also said that the liquidator has a responsibility to prevent ATV from incurring even more debts, RTHK reported.
The situation has gone on for several years, he said, and the reality was that ATV currently only has HK$200,000 and is unable to repay its debts. The beleaguered station also owes wages to its staff.
ATV spokesman Jeff Wong said that their new investor, Si Rongbin, is willing to inject HK$10 million to keep the television station running until April 1, the last day before its licence is due to expire. Wong also said that as an ATV employee, he did not want to see the station being shut down while it still has broadcasting rights.
Wong also said that Si’s representative will continue to communicate with Deloitte to try and reach a consensus and keep the company going.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said that in order for the Labour Department to take legal action against ATV’s unpaid wages, the company’s employees would have to testify, but many of them were still loyal to the company and preferred to adopt a wait-and-see approach, Ming Pao reported.
The offence of failing to pay wages on time could fetch a prison sentence of two years and a HK$100,000 fine, Cheung said.