CTN Tightens Belt with Staff Cuts

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Hong Kong -- Money-losing Chinese Television Network haslet go 165 employees from its headquarters here and moved its news channel to Taiwan, justeight months after its entertainment channel relocated there.

About 20 employees will remain here after the sacking of150 production and engineering staffers and 15 editorial positions at CTN bureausworldwide.

CTN began operations in 1994, launching the Zhong Tian newschannel and the Dadi entertainment-and-lifestyle channel. The Mandarin-language networksaim to provide a Chinese perspective on world events.

CTN editor in chief Ho Sing-kai said the drastic downsizingwas prompted by "market considerations," upon which he didn't elaborate.

Although he downplayed suggestions that it was caused byfinancial worries, the company, like others, is dealing with Asia's economicdownturn. In addition, doing business in Taipei is much less expensive than doing so inHong Kong, and the island is home to Asia's strongest pay TV market.

However, CTN corporate-affairs manager Anita Cheng said thelayoffs had been foreseen since 1997, when Taiwanese conglomerate Koos Group bought thecompany from founder Yu Pun-hoi of Hong Kong's Ming Pao Group.

"We have been losing money in the two years since thetakeover. The station is stable, but it is certainly not improving," she said. CTNhas been in the red since it began operations, she added.

Cheng said CTN's advertising income had not fallensignificantly in the past two years, although it was hurt somewhat by the Asian recession.

Koos Group -- which also owns Taiwanese MSO UnitedCommunications Group -- had not come up with a plan to bring it into profitability, sheadded.

CTN will keep its corporate headquarters here, although itsproduction functions will be cut down to the size of a regional bureau. Outside of Asia,CTN's London bureau has been closed and its functions transferred to Paris.

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