LCQ5: Domestic free television programme service licence
Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 11):
The Government indicated that vetting of the domestic free television service licence applications was expected to be finalised within the first half of 2011. While the year 2011 is already over and the Broadcasting Authority had already finished vetting the three licence applications and submitted its recommendations to the Chief Executive in Council for consideration, yet no further news has been released so far. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the reason for the authorities to postpone announcement of the vetting result is that they are still dealing with the appeal regarding the issuance of new licences lodged with the Chief Executive in Council by Asia Television Limited; if not, of the actual reasons for that; given that the authorities have indicated to this Council that it has opened up the domestic free television programme service market as it is the Government's established policy to promote the sustainable development of the local broadcasting industry, and encourage competition, investment and adoption of innovative technologies by the industry, thereby leading to the provision of more choices of quality programmes to the public, whether the reason why no decision has been made after a long time is that the Government has changed its original thinking and is inclined to maintain the status quo; and
(b) given that the three companies which submitted applications for the new licences have undertaken that they will invest a considerable amount of funds and recruit employees after obtaining the service licences, so as to make contributions in boosting the local economy and promoting employment, whether the Government has assessed what impact its postponement of making the decision will bring to the community?
I would like to briefly explain the application procedures for domestic free television programme service licences before replying the question from Hon Leung Yiu-chung. Under the existing Broadcasting Ordinance (BO), the Broadcasting Authority (BA) shall consider applications for a domestic free television programme service licence or a domestic pay television programme service licence and make recommendations thereon to the Chief Executive in Council (CE in Council). After considering the recommendations made by the BA, the CE in Council may grant a domestic free television programme service licence, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit specified in the licence.
According to the BA's Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong, an applicant should provide detailed information including the financial status of the corporation, the investment and management plan of the proposed broadcasting service, the proposed technology to be adopted, the variety, quantity and quality of programmes to be offered, time required for service rollout, etc. Based on the information received, the BA will make an assessment on the application, including whether the proposed broadcasting service is technically feasible, complies with the relevant statutory requirements, and can bring benefit to the local broadcasting industry and the economy as a whole. The BA will assess the application in accordance with the BO and established procedures, and then make recommendations on the application to the CE in Council.
My reply to the two-part question raised by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung is as follows:
(a) City Telecom (Hong Kong) Limited, Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited have each submitted an application for a domestic free television programme service licence. The BA has assessed the three applications in accordance with the BO and established procedures, taking into account a number of relevant factors. As I have just mentioned, such factors include the BO's requirements (these are also applicable to the two incumbent licensees), assessment criteria set out in the BA's Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong, public opinion and possible impact of new licences on the local television programme service market. To collect public views on the three applications, the BA conducted a public consultation exercise from July to September 2010 pursuant to the requirement under the BO. We understand that the BA received a total of 256 submissions during the consultation period, covering a large number of areas such as the variety and quality of programmes, technical soundness, commitment to investment and impact on the broadcasting industry and the viewing audience, etc. The BA gave due regard to these views when formulating its recommendations, and has submitted a summary of views received to the CE in Council for consideration.
The BA has already completed the assessment and made recommendations on the three applications to the CE in Council in accordance with the BO. The appeal lodged by Asia Television Limited (ATV) against the BA's recommendations was considered by the CE in Council on November 8, 2011. The CE in Council had replied ATV and the BA. The Government is processing the applications. The outcome will be announced as soon as possible after a decision is made by the CE in Council.
It is Government's established policy to promote the sustainable development of the local broadcasting industry and encourage competition and investment as well as the adoption of innovative technologies by the industry, thereby leading to the provision of more choices of quality programmes to the public. Under the BO, there is currently no pre-set limit on the number of free television programme service licences to be issued. Any interested and eligible organisations may apply to the BA for such licences. The BA will assess all applications in accordance with the BO and established procedures as set out in the Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong, and then submit its recommendations to the CE in Council. The decision on whether to grant a licence rests with the CE in Council.
(b) As an independent regulatory body established by statutes, the BA will handle all applications for free television programme service licences in an independent, fair and impartial manner strictly in accordance with the BO and established procedures, having due regard to the impact of the proposed services on the free television programme service market, with a view to ensuring a level playing field for broadcasters to serve the viewing public. The BA adopts a market-driven approach and always encourages competition among broadcasting service providers so that they will adjust their services according to market demand and offer more choices to the public. When assessing applications, the BA will consider the benefit the proposed broadcasting service can bring to the local broadcasting industry and the economy as a whole. The CE in Council will take into account all relevant factors and be guided by public interest in deciding whether to grant a free television programme service licence.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012