Court order saves ATV staff from getting fired ... for now, but perhaps not for long

Court order saves ATV staff from getting fired ... for now, but perhaps not for long

The television company's employees were saved last minute yesterday, but a new order that can change everything again may come after 3pm today

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ATV staff at the company’s headquarters in Tai Po yesterday.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

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Artist Din Xu shows a Deloitte’s dismissal letter at the Asia Television building.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

Asia Television earned a last-minute reprieve yesterday to delay a bid by provisional liquidators to fire the remaining employees and take the station off air.

It looked like it was game over when court-appointed accounting firm Deloitte issued a letter to employees telling them they've lost their jobs, but new investor Si Rongbin managed to get a High Court order delaying the move until 3pm today.

ATV, which still owes staff their January salaries, was said to have only HK$200,000 left. It’s not clear how many employees are left at ATV, as many have walked out.

“The provisional liquidators are not allowed to halt ATV’s broadcasts or dismiss its staff before the new hearing,” a spokesman for the station said last night.

Deloitte said it would give the public an update “in due course”. It’s not clear if the broadcasts will stop today or the station will have another chance.

Earlier on Monday, the professional liquidators had already started handing out written termination notices. And ATV staff at the station’s headquarters in Tai Po and told them they were fired effective immediately.

“We are unable to pay you the salaries,” Deloitte told ATV’s staff. “There’s nothing we can do.”

It is understood that only human resources staff and security guards will be able to keep their jobs for an unspecified period.

“The company has no money. It’s time we left,” a staff member told media.

A spokesman for the Labour Department said the government was very concerned about the decision to lay off all ATV staff.

He said the department held a meeting with around 250 ATV employees yesterday, and helped them to file claims with the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund Board.

Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung also expressed concern. He said he hoped the provisional liquidators could clarify their plans for winding up the TV station, which followed major creditor Wong Ching’s petition filed at the High Court last month.

Meanwhile, the city’s media watchdog said it had yet to be notified whether ATV would terminate broadcasts before its free-to-air TV licence expired in April.

“The Communications Authority will continue to monitor ATV’s broadcasting service,” a statement said.

Last week the authority decided to start what may result in a 30-day suspension of ATV’s licence after the station failed to transmit newscasts, pay fees and penalties, and comply with residence requirements for board members.

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