Real estate developer aims to rejuvenate aTV

09:08, March 31, 2010      

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Wang Zheng, now the biggest shareholder of Asia Television Limited (aTV) said he would transform Hong Kong's oldest TV station into an Asian CNN.

Wang is the general manager of Rongfeng Holding Group Co., Ltd, a mainland real estate company, and has purchased a 52 percent shareholding in the TV company for 2 billion yuan (US$293 million).

"My long-term goal is to make it into an Asian CNN in twenty years. My mid-term goal is to create a truly independent media organization that dares to tell the truth. As for this year, I plan to reverse the money-losing tide of this TV station and make it profitable," he told in Hong Kong.

Although Wang comes from a high communist official family and also serves as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body, he promised that he would not let his political background affect the operation of the TV station, but would ensure its output remaining unbiased and highly watchable.

He said that he was also planning to open a Mandarin channel. News, the station's key strength, would remain a priority, and the station would continue producing diversified programs like TV dramas, for which it had long had a good reputation.

Wang said he wanted the TV programs to cover the well-off population, especially young people in the Pearl River Delta, a southeastern area in China. Hong Kong and Macao will remain a focus of attention. He would try to make aTV reach more hotels and households.

This is the first time for a businessman from outside the industry to run a TV station. But Wang believes he has a way of putting the TV station back on its feet. "Now, everyone thinks the station's financial troubles are its biggest problem. But I don't believe this is so... The key issue is the TV station does not have a right direction, right operational methods or right talents," he said.

In addition, he expressed great determination and said that even if the business does not run well in the future, he will never quit. Rejuvenating the station is his dream. He hopes to raise it to a level of popularity matching CNN in the world in 20 years. Thus, it can be the major source of Asian news that people watch on a daily basis.

But some experts are not so optimistic about Wang's ambitious plan. "People have lost hope in aTV as it has changed hands so frequently," Professor Huang Yu from the Journalism Department of Hong Kong Baptist University told Time Weekly newspaper. "Its problems are quite complicated, not just limited to shortage of funds."

"Now, the key issue for Wang Zheng is how to define this 'Asian CNN'. If it just extends its English services and broadcasts rotating news around the clock, many people will not think this will work well. If it can cater to the demands in the international community, there will be a big difference. What's more, it will be a challenge for Wang to compete with Phoenix Satellite TV in the future," the professor said.

Hong Kong's TV market is divided by free TV and pay TV. In early 2010, Hong Kong's Broadcasting Authority announced the opening of its free TV market. Immediately, three local media companies – City Telecom (H.K.) Limited, i-Cable and PCCW Limited – applied for business licenses.

Established in May 1957, aTV is the first Chinese language TV station in Hong Kong, also in the world. Right now it and Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) are the only two TV stations providing free broadcasting services in Hong Kong. Its services cover Hong Kong, Macao, Guangdong and North America, reaching about 100 million people.

Since 1980s, it has struggled financially. Meanwhile, its viewing rate has plunged. All these problems have caused frequent management power shifts. On March 11, Wang Zheng announced he would take over the TV station in Beijing. The same day, aTV signed cooperation deals involving advertising and investment with five mainland companies – China Life, Merchant Bank of China, China Overseas Holdings Limited, GDH Limited and Bank of Beijing.

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