Numerous journalists at i-Cable resigned in protest after the broadcaster fired 40 of their colleagues on Tuesday, citing the economic impact of Covid-19. Among those who have quit were the award-winning China news team, and the heads of international, local and financial news.
Earlier on Tuesday, i-Cable dismissed the 40 with immediate effect. They include the entire team at News Lancet, one of the city’s best regarded investigatory programmes.
Video footage shows angry staff members confronting management over the mass dismissals, with some questioning why their colleagues, some of them quite senior, were sacked at such short notice.
Tuesday’s mass dismissals were a response to the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a statement. “Facing this incredible challenge, i-Cable has vigorously sought to use ways… to maintain our competitiveness such that the corporation can maintain its operations,” it said, adding that the company needed “to fully review and adjust each department’s structure and human resources.”
Around 100 of the broadcaster’s 1,300 employees have lost their jobs or been otherwise affected by the reshuffle, according to the statement.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association called on the broadcaster to reconsider its decision. “This firing not only is a huge hit to staff morale but also affects the quality of news coverage,” it said in a statement.
It added that the firing of the entire News Lancet team smacked of political considerations. “Given the team’s coverage of the police and the administration, it’s difficult not to see this as minimising sensitive reporting in the name of cost-cutting.”
‘Disappointed and angry’
i-Cable’s China news team resigned in solidarity with their Assistant China News Editor Wong Lai-ping, who was amongst those sacked. Wong told the press that the decision was made unanimously and voluntarily. “We had discussed this previously, that if they fire any one of us, the rest will leave with them,” she said.
Wong also cited problems with understaffing and earlier pay cuts which had made their jobs increasingly difficult. “They say it’s because of cash-flow problems… We don’t know how they have made this decision. We just know that they made a sudden announcement today as to who would be fired,” she said.
She added that her colleagues decided to resign because they felt “disappointed and angry,” and no longer valued by the company.
In a farewell post on social media, the team thanked the public for its support and vowed to provide their best coverage in the remainder of their time. “In the remaining days, we will stick to our post and do our best in our coverage, thank you all for your support.”
The team has been responsible for breaking award-winning stories from mainland China, including the emergence of the coronavirus in Wuhan late last year. The segment also aired the last interview with Chinese dissident Li Wangyang and extensively covered the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.