News staff resign en masse after i-Cable sacks 100, axes investigative report team

Published (HKT): 2020.12.01 15:56

i-Cable News fired 40 news staff on Tuesday morning, including videographers, news anchors and the entire team of the award-winning investigative reporting program News Lancet. The whole China desk, including team head Szeto Yuen and 10 editors and reporters, submitted a mass resignation in support of an assistant editor who was sacked.

Editorial staff, including some who were still on assignment at the Legislative Council, were informed of their immediate dismissal over phone calls from the human resources department on Tuesday morning.

Dozens of staff members confronted Anderson Chan and Oscar Lee, the two directors who took the reins of the newsroom after a major shake-up in August, outside their office.

The staff questioned why the heads of desks were not informed of the decision or consulted beforehand and how news operations can continue after an abrupt dismissal on such a large scale. They also pressed the management for an explanation on shedding the most outstanding staff in each of their fields.

In response, executive director Edna Tse bluntly said, “this is our way of doing things now” and accused the staff of subjecting them to a public trial. Chan described the staff as “thugs bargaining” before leaving the office. The company also failed to provide details on severance terms and pay.

A round of negotiations with the management failed to yield any meaningful result, and prompted the heads of the local, international and financial news to quit in protest.

Wong Lai-ping, deputy chief of the China news team, was among those laid off. “Even during the pandemic, no matter how dangerous it was, we sent reporters to Wuhan. This is why we are most disappointed, no matter how hard we work, we cannot earn the respect of the management.”

“In the remaining days, we will stand first in our positions and do our best to deliver good reporting. Thank you for your support over the years,” wrote the China desk on their Facebook, after the entire team tendered their resignations.

Employees expressed regrets that the game was now over, as the outlet’s reputation was built by the hard work of the entire newsroom. A current employee said the round of layoff was expected after the government’s employment subsidy scheme ended and it was only a matter of time and scale.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, i-Cable Communications Limited (1097) said around 100 employees are affected by the latest round of restructuring.

The parachute appointments of the three media executives occurred in August, after which

three veteran engineers with over two decades of experience were sacked. Around 220 staff members signed a public letter to Chairperson David Chiu, condemning the dismissal as an “irreparable loss.”

Speaking in July, David Chiu stressed the need to reform traditional news production, citing new media outlets in Europe that rely heavily on online footage taken by netizens. He said reporters should be able to process three mediums – television, radio and print – at the same time.

Chiu was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. He was infected by his wife Nancy Chiu Ng, who caught the virus after attending a meal with a patient of the dance cluster.

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