TVB has lashed out at the Communications Authority for playing the role of "pleasure police" as the High Court heard its judicial review over the "fried chicken" controversy.
Senior counsel Gerald McCoy, representing TVB, said the audience has the right to be entertained and choose whatever TV program it prefers.
McCoy said the authority is censoring what people watch by regulating TV advertising through various means, including obtrusion and viewing pleasure.
The free TV station was fined HK$150,000 by the authority in 2016 for indirectly advertising during the TV Awards Presentation of TVB in 2015.
During the award ceremony, TVB artists ate fried chicken on stage, and the logo of KFC was prominently shown.
TVB challenged the authority's decision, saying it was unconstitutional as it intruded on freedom of expression. The judicial review was heard in court yesterday.
McCoy said artists were told in the program to eat fried chicken to create a sense of comedy. The gesture was intended to bring a pleasurable experience to viewers.
However, the authority did not see the funny side of the gesture and ended up policing what was pleasurable for the audience by fining TVB for obtruding viewing pleasure, McCoy said.
Viewers did not seem too disturbed by the fried chicken eating footage as TVB only received 13 complaints.
While indirect advertising may frustrate people, the authority cannot use it to justify its decision to hamper a TV station's freedom of expression, McCoy argued.
A TV licensee is entitled to air all types of content, as long as it is not explicitly banned by law.
McCoy said the audience has the right to be entertained and should be free to choose from a variety of programs.
McCoy said the Communications Authority does not have any clear-cut rules to regulate indirect advertising. In many occasions, the watchdog relies on discretion to decide on potential violations.
In November 2015, TVB aired a program in which female artists ate pizza from Pizza Hut. However, the authority did not have any issues with it, even though it was similar to the KFC incident.
With this in mind, McCoy called for well-defined rules when it comes to indirect advertising. He also hit out at how restrictions over indirect advertising affected the income of TV stations.
TV broadcast and advertising revenue fell nine percent in 2015.