Some insights into the coming Legco Poll

Lam Miu-yan - Assignment Editor, Cable TV News

[中文] [Jul 2012 - The Journalist] “The number of seats in New Territories West will increase from 8 to 9, making a mess of the political situation there. There will be 18 lists of candidates scrambling for those seats.

The pro-establishment DAB will field three lists led by Tam Yiu-chung, Leung Che-cheung and Chan Han-pan.

The FTU's Mak Mei-kuen will replace Wong Kwok-hing in the fight.

Chow Liang Shuk-yee of the Liberal Party will make a return while Ho Kwan-yiu from the Law Society of Hong Kong and Chan Keung from the New Territories Association of Societies will also be in the running. Finally, there is Michael Tien of the New People's Party.

It is even more chaotic in the pan-democracy camp. Lee Wing-tat and his wife Chan Shu-ying from Democratic Party will split into two lists. Kwok Ka-kei and Audrey Eu of the Civic Party will join in, too.

The Labour Party will be led by Lee Cheuk-yan while Liu Sung-lee of ADPL who used to work in Kowloon West will be parachuting in.

The July 1 demonstration has created a serious crisis of governance for
new CE CY Leung. Let's see how many seats the pan-democrats take
in the LegCo election. (Photograph Courtesy of Ming Pao).
Chan Wai-yip of People Power and Mak Ip-sing will run separately, as will Tsang Kin-shing from LSD. This means there will be 10 lists from the pan-democratic camp – more than seats available.”

More discussion is not meaningless. I will try to show all the lists of candidates in the same constituency can be included in order to meet the ‘equal time’ requirement for a news report. (excluding additional ‘unknown’ candidates).

It would take 2 minutes and 19 seconds to just mention all lists. If each representative from a list speaks for 10 minutes, it will take 3 extra minutes. So it takes 5 to 6 minutes to briefly introduce one constituency.

How to make election news more meaningful and worth watching within those constraints? This is the starting point in planning our LegCo election coverage.

Obviously news is hardly meaningful when you have only 10 seconds at most for each candidate. So we have to think outside the box.

For example in the last Legco Election, besides 2 to 3 minutes routine election TV news, we also asked some soft questions like “What decision do you regret most?” to candidates at the end of the news. This aimed to compensate for the limitation of news and allow voters to get to know more about the candidates.

Will this idea work again? Except technical difficulties caused by the increased number of candidate, what we should ask if this is a “good” technique? Or is it a lazy way to pack news? Is it a dumping down of political coverage?

As there are too many candidates to introduce and given the constraints of equal time for all candidates, providing an in-depth report is a big challenge.

The ‘Super District Council Functional Constituency’  will be introduced in the Legco election this year. With three million voters, these five seats will be the largest constituencies in Hong Kong.

It is difficult for a TV station to allocate the resources. The last time Cable TV assigned five reporters to be special correspondents in each constituency from the start of the nomination period. Each correspondent had to do a live report on the Election Day. But how many reporters will be needed if we use the same method for these super-constituencies? How many crews will be needed on the Election Day? Since the constituency is as big as the whole of Hong Kong, the candidate must go around canvassing the voters, the traditional method of covering news may not applicable.

I believe super-constituencies will be the focus on Election Day. For example, each candidate will be followed by one crew. With limited resources how will it affect the deployment of staff to cover the geographical constituencies? How to strike a balance? This requires seriously consideration.

With the introduction of super constituencies what will be the focus of the coming TV debate.
Since there will be numerous candidates, a TV debate will be messy especially in the Q&A section between candidates. The audience is likely to have a difficult time as too many candidates will be talking at the same time. There will hardly be any debate.

This problem will deteriorate. For example, if there are 18 lists of candidates in New Territories West and the forum lasts an hour, each list of candidates can will only get about three minutes. Even if the duration is doubled each will have only six minutes.

On the other hand, the threshold of super district constituency nomination is higher, limits the number of candidates. These candidates – Lau Kong-wah, Lee Wai-king, Chan Yuen-han, Albert Ho, James To and Frederick Fung -- all are star politicians and they will make the debate look like a “battle of political leaders”.

An exciting debate can be expected as fewer candidates will allow for better quality. How to utilize this advantage and make the election debate more substantial? That we have to figure out.

Finally we have to consider the overall political environment. The motion to prioritise the reorganisation of the government suggested by Leung Chun-ying was beaten by one vote in LegCo. This lesson taught Leung that the LegCo election will be very significant. Whether pan-democratic camp can keep 24 seats (1/3 of LegCo seats) will be crucial in the next four years.

We saw a spate of scandals during the Chief Executive election. The Legco election probably will follow the same path to a certain extent. Will sources provide reporters with “black materials” to tarnish certain candidates in order to drag him or her down? How should such “black materials” be handled? This should be considered as well.

TV news reporters need to meet deadlines every day. It is hoped that reporters can step back from the chaotic daily news scene, focus on bigger and deeper issues so that the audience will better understand importance of this election.