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Eric Tsang Chi-wai, who hosted Miss Hong Kong from 1992 to 2012, thinks the beauty pageant has become less appealing to young Hong Kong women as they do not want to become the focus of gossip.

Having hosted the show for 20 years, Tsang says falling production values is another reason for the decline of beauty pageants in Hong Kong. “The preparation of Miss Hong Kong Pageant was one year long in the past and the producer was not allowed to get involved in other programmes,” he explains. “But now, the production team cannot concentrate since they only have one week to get ready while dealing with other shows.”

Tsang recalls that in the past, TVB put much weight on the competition and the producers competed against each other to be in charge of this significant event. The live performances were very glamorous and extravagant with themes like Ancient Dunhuang, Exotic Egyptians and Caribbean Pirates.

With limited budgets and fewer producers in recent years, TVB tried to spice up the programme by introducing the public voting system in 2012. Viewers cast their vote online for one of three finalists chosen by the judges. But the poll turned into a debacle when viewers were left unable to vote because of a server breakdown and the winner was picked by judges instead.

The voting results in the next two years were also controversial, with some viewers unhappy that celebrity judges had too much power in pre-selecting the candidates. Eric Tsang admits that the voting system leaves much to be desired and blames a lack of pre-show publicity. “The voting system works in other talents shows because the audiences get to see contestants for few weeks on TV and genuinely wish their favourite to win,” he says, “How can the public vote when they barely know the girls?”

The audiences cannot feel committed to the show, let alone connected to the contestants. Erica Yuen Mi-ming, one of the five finalists of Miss Hong Kong Pageant 2005, says the show’s format has failed to catch up with the changes in Hongkongers’ lifestyle. “It’s not exciting for the audiences to watch a two-hour show with the exact same format as that of 30 years ago,” Yuen points out.

Yuen thinks viewers expect more from both the programme and the beauty queens. To showcase the contestants’ sophistication in the hope of improving their image, she suggests including questions on current affairs and politics in the Q&A session; or giving contestants more time to speak during the live show.

Although viewers are switching off from beauty pageants in Hong Kong, Yuen believes they still have a value that is worth preserving. “Admiring beautiful things is in human nature and there is always entertainment potential in beauty pageants. It’s the format and style we need to change,” she says.

Edited by Vivian Lai