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Hong Kong's ATV Fined over False Jiang Zemin Death Reports

Rumors of the former Chinese leader's death were greatly exaggerated by the terrestrial broadcaster.

HONG KONG – Asia Television (ATV) was fined HK$300,000 ($38,600) by the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority for its false report on July 6 that former Chinese president Jiang Zemin had died.

The fine was imposed for the inaccurate report and subsequent late correction of the factual error, the HKBA decided in an official assessment statement on the investigation of the prime time new report, which prompted 45 complaints from the public, and a discussion at the Legislative Council.

The terrestrial network led with reports of Jiang’s death twice on its Cantonese-language channel on July 6, and scheduled a special program to commemorate the former Chinese leader, before the reports were found to be false and the special program hastily cancelled. Jiang appeared on television in the company of current Chinese president Hu Jintao, conclusively disproving the rumors.

The channel also changed the color of its logo to the somber tones of black and white, but the HKBA found that change was not a breach of TV program code. The false reports drew mass public concern and a strong rebuke from China's state-run Xinhua News Agency the following day.

Two heads of ATV's news department resigned in the wake of the reports and subsequent investigation.

The role of Wong Ching, the owner of ATV, in the involvement of the report, was also called into question. The HKBA is conducting an ongoing and separate investigation on the control and management of the network.