TVB Faces Mass Resignations and Talent Drain; Monopoly Over Hong Kong Free TV Market Broken
TVB was faced with a plethora of problems recently. Following the corruption scandal of TVB executive, Stephen Chan (陳志雲), and senior management fighting over the validity of royalties, a large number of TVB employees resigned recently. This included the departure of over ten scriptwriters. If the situation continues to deteriorate, many series currently in production may be greatly affected. Popular artists, such as Fala Chen (陳法拉), Myolie Wu (胡杏兒), and Wayne Lai’s (黎耀祥) work may be halted at any time due to disruption in the production process of currently filmed series.
TVB Faces Stiff Competition From Rival TV Stations
In 2012, there will be an addition of three free broadcasting television stations in Hong Kong, which includes Ricky Wong’s (王維基) City Telecom, Richard Li’s (李澤楷) Now TV, and iCable’s free broadcasting arm. The Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority has completed the examination and approved the three companies’ petition for the free television broadcasting licenses, while the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau will likely submit the materials to the Executive Council for review within one month. Next year, there will be three new free local television stations competiting with TVB and ATV.
Since former TVB executive, Ho Lai Chuen (何麗全), moved to rival station, Now TV, he has been recruiting ex-colleagues to join him at the new company. According to reliable sources, more than half of TVB artists and production staff were being actively recruited by Ricky Wong’s City Telecom. In addition to promising salary increases, City Telecom allegedly will pay for the early contract termination fees of TVB employees interested in working at the new company.
It was understood that TVB had more than thirty employees who handed in their resignation letters, in which the directing and scriptwriting departments were the hardest hit. Even Producer Lee Tim Sing (李添勝) became the object of recruitment. It was understood that “Golden Scriptwriter” Cheung Wah Biu (張華標), who had agreed to return to TVB earlier to partner with Tim Gor on Rosy Business 3 <巾幗梟雄3>, was recently recruited to join City Telecom as well.
Allegedly, over ten scriptwriters resigned due to low salary wages at TVB. The production department was severely impacted. A high-level emergency response plan was drafted to retain employees, including increasing salaries by half.
TVB Acknowledges Resignation Movement
Asked about recent resignnations at TVB, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Tsang Sing Ming (曾醒明), noted that TVB received no more than ten resignation letters to-date and that the situation was not serious, “There are 280 employees in the Program Development Division, with over 80 scriptwriters. The remaining staff perform data collection and writing duties. Over the last several days, the resignations came mainly from the drama department. The number of resignations were a little higher than usual.”
Asked whether TVB immediately offered salary raises to retain employees, Mr. Tsang said, “The Human Resources department said that salaries were adjusted in July, with the most generous increases occurring mainly among assistant director and junior scriptwriter positions.” Mr. Tsang stated that TVB had a large number of employees; staff turnover and new employees joining the company were normal occurrences. Mr. Tsang stressed that the temporary influx of resignations did not have an impact on production.
Producer Lee Tim Sing admitted that former TVB employees were recruited by other television stations. However, Tim Gor turned down other companies’ recruitment offers, “My contract will not expire until next year. At that time, I will be 65-years-old and my capacity will be limited.”
Tim Gor admitted that working in TVB will push one to his own death, “The work never ends! Since arriving at work, I have worked from morning until night.” Regarding TVB artists and production staff being hired to work for other televsion stations, Tim Gor acknowledged that he heard this was the case, stating it was time TVB examined the reason why employees were filled with grievances.
Wayne Lai Urges Wage Increase
TVB may suffer a “vacuum” of scriptwriters at any time. Series currently being filmed, Palace Schemes of East and West <東西宮略>, starring Fala Chen (陳法拉) and Roger Kwok (郭晉安), and Lucky Father <當旺爸爸> starring Linda Chung (鍾嘉欣) and Steven Ma (馬浚偉) will inevitably be affected. Filming The King Makers <造王者>, Wayne Lai (黎耀祥) was not concerned that the current resignation movement will affect the quality of the series. “There will be senior, experienced staff overseeing [the production process].”
Wayne Lai also felt that salary increases were a priority, “In fact, the turnover in scriptwriters has always been a serious matter. Based on what I know, even a scriptwriter possessing a university degree will only receive a monthly salary of several thousand dollars. I would like to take this opportunity to say that TVB should increase the salaries for the company’s artists and production crew in order to increase morale.”
Currently filming Exchanging Happiness, Myolie Wu said, ” TVB films numerous series each year. Even if faced with such a situation [high staff turnover], it will be able to handle it.” Appearing at a promotional event, Maggie Cheung felt that staff turnover at television stations were the norm.
Excerpt from Oriental Daily and Appledaily
Jayne: Finally, TVB’s monopoly over the free local television market in Hong Kong is broken. It appears that among the new free television stations, City Telecom has been the most aggressive in recruiting former TVB talent. I believe City Telecom had successfully recruited scriptwriter, Cheung Wah Biu, who had promised to return to TVB until he was lured by a higher salary.
No wonder TVB is scurrying to film all these heavyweight dramas for 2012, producing numerous sequels such as “War and Beauty 2” and “Ghetto Justice 2” since the stakes are now raised and there is increased pressure to maintain high ratings. ATV will likely continue to tank amidst the competition, unless one of the new free broadcasting companies decides to buy them out.
Perhaps that was also the reason why Sir Run Run Shaw and Mona Fong decided to sell their shares at TVB to Charles Chan and focus their energy on Shaw Brothers instead. The timing of the sale occurred at just the right time.
Will “Shell King” Charles Chan be able to continue to grow TVB amidst new competition and the recent talent drain? Richard Li may have the most cash among all the players. How will this corporate drama unfold in the Hong Kong broadcasting industry? Hopefully, audiences and true talent will benefit onwards.