Nowadays, good corporate governance practices are vitally important for building and maintaining investor confidence. Therefore, major corporations should conduct regular reviews of their own standards to ensure they meet stakeholder expectations, comply with all legal and regulatory stipulations, and reflect the latest local and international developments.
As an example of how things are changing, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong recently introduced amendments to its listing rules with regard to codes of corporate governance. This has increased general awareness of the issue, as did the high-profile collapse of international firms such as Enron, says Dr Alan Au, who is associate professor of the School of Business and Administration at The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK).
Recognising the need for better understanding, OUHK is taking steps to promote greater knowledge of corporate governance among members of the general public. "We had the idea that producing TV programmes would be the most effective way of doing this," Dr Au says. "There is a general misconception that corporate governance is a technical subject which doesn't concern people who are making personal investments. We hope the TV series will show that viewpoint is not really correct."
The intention was to produce the programmes together with the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS), of which Dr Au is a council member. This also ties in with his responsibility for the BBA in Corporate Administration and the Master of Corporate Governance courses at the OUHK, graduates of which are granted certain exemptions from the professional examinations administered by the HKICS.
In putting together the concept for the TV series, Dr Au points out that the participation of industry veteran Peter Greenwood and HKICS membership committee chairlady April Chan has been invaluable. Respectively, they have helped in lining up suitable interviewees and contributed a great deal to the publicity and marketing of the project.
It took around a year to get government approval and secure funding. "The total cost was about HK$500,000 and that covers everything from the interviews and production to script writing and editing," says Dr Au.
The series, titled "Corporate Governance in Action", is now complete and is being broadcast on local English language channel TVB Pearl on five Sundays between November 27 2005 and March 5 2006. "We have obtained a prime slot, with the five 45-minute programmes to run from 12:15pm to 1pm and an estimated audience of 40,000," Dr Au adds. To further publicise the series, related information can also be found on the university's website.
Each programme will address a major topic related to the need for better corporate governance and highlight relevant ethical issues which might come up in Hong Kong and China. "We want to take a neutral stance by interviewing participants with different perspectives on aspects of corporate governance, so that we can create a balance," says Dr Au. The interviewees therefore include representatives of regulatory and supervisory bodies, academic institutions, local and multinational firms, red-chip and H-share companies, as well as independent advocates.