The fissures in society brought about by the extradition bill saga have now extended to the local media industry.
While Apple Daily and several other independent online media outlets have seen a surge in patronage, some of those labeled as pro-establishment media have become the target of hostile efforts.
Protesters calling for the complete scrapping of the legislation that would allow extradition to mainland China are now turning their ire to these so-called pro-Beijing media outlets.
They are urging those opposed to the bill to boycott companies that advertise in such media outfits.
Television Broadcasts, the city’s largest free TV station, has found itself a target of this campaign.
On Tuesday afternoon, a local online forum carried an announcement supposedly from Pocari Sweat, a Japanese sports beverage brand, that its local unit has withdrawn its advertisements on TVB since last week “in view of the current situation”.
However, the authenticity of the post, which even carried an alleged screen-capture image from the Facebook page of Pocari Hong Kong, could not be established.
Neither Pocari Hong Kong nor TVB has confirmed the “announcement”.
On Wednesday, several brands wrote on their social media page that they would no longer place advertising budget on TVB under current situation. Pizza Hut, a restaurant chain owned by Jardines Group, reportedly said it had no plan to advertise on TVB after the end of previous campaign.
Nonetheless, it shows that some individuals or groups opposing the extradition bill have taken the fight to the “red media” or those who support the policies and views of the SAR government and the central authorities that are seen as eroding Hong Kong autonomy and the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” principle.
Protesters say these media outlets, which are granted scarce spectrum resources to broadcast their channels, have failed to maintain their professionalism and allowed themselves to be used by the establishment for propaganda purposes.
They accuse TVB, in particular, of becoming a mouthpiece of the government and mockingly call it “CCTVB” because of what they perceive as its pro-establishment bias.
They cite the broadcaster’s coverage of the massive protests against the extradition bill, saying it chose to focus on young activists resorting to violent methods rather than on the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators joining the peaceful rallies.
They urge fellow protesters to take more aggressive steps to put pressure on the broadcaster such as by disrupting its shows. Some online forums even circulated the time and venue of events hosted by TVB and called on protesters to go there to voice out their anger against its “biased” news coverage.
Consequently, TVB reportedly canceled two promotional events it was scheduled to host in shopping malls this week, apparently to avoid disruptions from protesters. The move indicates that the broadcaster is aware of the potential damage that such protests can do to its image and credibility.
On the other hand, the protesters themselves are aware of the enormous power of these media outlets in persuading public opinion over controversial issues.
They plan to organize protests against the “red media”, an initiative inspired by a similar campaign in Taipei last month.
Tens of thousands of people had rallied in Taipei to protest against media outlets that spread “fabricated news” in favor of Beijing. The protesters had called for tighter regulation to counter China’s “manipulation” of local media.
Protesters are lining up other ways to put pressure on pro-establishment media, and they are hoping that their efforts could shake up the local media landscape.