The makers of the sports drink Pocari Sweat confirmed today that they were pulling all advertising from TVB, quenching anti-extradition bill protesters’ thirst for action amid long-running accusations that the broadcaster displayed a pro-Beijing slant in its coverage of recent demonstrations.
A spokesman for Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company, which owns Pocari Sweat, told Bloomberg that the decision to pull the ads came after a “periodic review of the advertising budget” and an assessment of the “sales impacts from use of different media outlets.”
A screenshot widely circulated online purports to show a message from the Pocari Sweat HK (Official) Facebook page that reads “in view of the current situation, we have made a decision to withdraw the advertisements placement from TVB broadcast stations last week,” adding that the beverage maker had also “taken a proactive step to urge TVB broadcast station to respond to public concern.”
News of the win, unsurprisingly, blew up in the online protest-o-sphere, with some netizens reporting buying out the entire stock of Pocari Sweat at local stores.
Some #HongKong citizens are going out to purchase all Pocari Sweat products in stores, to show support for the brand’s decision to withdraw advertisements from TVB, a pro-government TV channel in #HK.
— Hong Kong #AntiELAB Movement (@Fight4HongKong) July 9, 2019
“Put out tear gas canisters with Pocari Sweat!” one commenter crowed.
Another even posted an illustrated tribute depicting a stoic, protest-kitted kitty-cat astride a can of the refreshing, electrolyte-replenishing sugar water.
TVB has long had a reputation for having a pro-government, pro-Beijing bias, with some protesters referring to as “CCTVB” in a sarcastic nod to the Chinese state-run outlet CCTV.
The broadcaster’s current woes began when it aired an exclusive interview with Chief Executive Carrie Lam in which she condescended to anti-extradition protesters, likening them to children throwing a tantrum. Since then, TVB has come under fire for coverage that protesters say favors police, who themselves are deeply unpopular over their heavy-handed response to recent demonstrations.
Protests in recent weeks have seen TVB reporters and crew members chased from the scene by angry demonstrators. After one such incident on June 27, the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association felt compelled to issue a statement condemning the harassment of a TVB crew and urging “citizens to express opinions rationally and respect journalists’ rights to reporting.”
Crowd has surrounded a TVB cameraman, flashing a light at his lens and yelling “diu lei lo mo” (F your mom) at him. Protester tells me they don’t like TVB because they think it selectively shows things that favor the police. #HongKong #antiELAB pic.twitter.com/QYGDesK7VK
— Laurel Chor (@laurelchor) June 27, 2019
With the criticism mounting, two local shopping malls also cancelled events they were jointly hosting with TVB.
V City, a shopping mall in Tuen Mun, announced on Facebook yesterday that a “results party” intended to celebrate thousands of high school students receiving their grades for their university entrance exams today was called off due to “safety concerns.” The event was scheduled to be broadcast of TVB.
Similarly, another mall in Kwun Tong called apm — which was planning a sort of pre-results party on Tuesday night, also due to be broadcast on TVB — announced on Facebook on Monday that their event would also be cancelled. TVB also posted a statement to Facebook on Monday confirming the event at apm was cancelled and apologizing for the inconvenience.
Neither TVB nor apm have offered an explanation as to why the event was cancelled.
As with the Pocari Sweat ad-pull, critics of the network claimed victory over the cancellations, with one claiming they showed that TVB is “clearly scared of the people.”
“LIHKG power is more powerful than TVB power!” another exclaimed, referring to a popular online forum where much of the discussion and organization surround the protest movement has taken place.
(Presumably not everyone was happy about the decision to cancel the V City event, however, given that it was expected to be attended by actor Kenneth Ma — now freshly single after officially calling it off with actress Jacqueline Wong, who famously broke the internet after she was caught on camera making out with a famous pop star, who was in turn married to an even more famous pop star.)
Protesters, meanwhile, had been planning to rally outside TVB’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O in Sai Kung on July 21, but organizers today called the march off, citing the effectiveness of the ad boycott campaign. Another protest in Tseung Kwan O is being planned for July 28.