LCQ9: Domestic free television programme service licences and allocation of television spectrum
Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (January 28):
On October 15, 2013, the Chief Executive (CE) in Council decided that the applications for a domestic free television programme service licence from Fantastic Television Limited (Fantastic TV) and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE) be granted approval-in-principle, but the application of Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTVN) be rejected. It has been more than a year since the authorities made that decision, but there is still no definite date for Fantastic TV and HKTVE to start broadcasting. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the work progress of Fantastic TV and HKTVE in preparing for television broadcasting, and why the Communications Authority (CA) is still unable to reach a consensus with the two television broadcasters in respect of licence conditions;
(2) of the allocation principles and justifications for arriving at the current arrangements for television spectrum; whether the authorities plan to allocate television spectrum to the above two new television broadcasters for their use; if they do not, whether the authorities will re-allocate the television spectrum;
(3) when the authorities expect Fantastic TV and HKTVE to start broadcasting; and
(4) given that HKTVN has earlier re-submitted an application for a domestic free television programme service licence, of the current progress in processing the application; whether CA has made recommendations to CE in Council in respect of the application?
My reply to the four-part question is as follows:
(1) On October 15, 2013, the Government announced that the Chief Executive (CE) in Council had decided to grant approvals-in-principle to the applications for domestic free television programme (free TV) service licences from Fantastic Television Limited (Fantastic TV) and HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE), but the formal licence grant is subject to the CE in Council's further review and final determination under the Broadcasting Ordinance (BO) (Cap. 562) at the second stage.
After the announcement of the decision, the Communications Authority (CA) has immediately proceeded with the follow-up work, including that:
(i) the CA should verify whether Fantastic TV and HKTVE have completed corporate restructuring as proposed in their applications, and whether their corporate status after the said restructuring complies with the requirement under the BO that a free TV service licensee shall not be a subsidiary of a corporation;
(ii) consequential to the two applicants' requests for using the airwaves for broadcasting in the course of the follow-up work, the CA should secure confirmations from them that the follow-up work for their applications should continue to proceed on the basis of the application contents at the time of the grant of approvals-in-principle, including the proposals to deliver free TV services via fixed networks;
(iii) Fantastic TV and HKTVE should submit confirmations and undertakings for the purpose of implementing the requirements imposed by the CE in Council when approvals-in-principle were granted in October 2013; and
(iv) the CA issued to the two applicants the draft licences on April 1, 2014 and subsequently had several rounds of discussions with them on the proposed licence conditions therein.
The CA submitted its recommendations in respect of the two applications to the CE in Council on January 19, 2015. The CE in Council is now processing the two applications in accordance with the procedures and the law. The Government will announce the outcome after the CE in Council has made its final determination.
(2) Despite their requests for using airwaves for broadcasting, the two licence applicants granted with approvals-in-principle confirmed with the CA in late June 2014 that any follow-up work for their applications should continue to proceed on the basis of the original applications (i.e. to deliver free TV services via fixed networks).
The free TV service licences of the two incumbent free TV licensees are due to expire by the end of November 2015. The CA submitted its recommendations to the CE in Council on the two licensees' applications for licence renewals, and will work out the assignment arrangements for the frequency spectrum in accordance with relevant legislation and the "Radio Spectrum Policy Framework".
(3) According to the proposals put forward by Fantastic TV and HKTVE in their applications, which have been granted approvals-in-principle, the two applicants have proposed to commence the integrated Cantonese and English channels within 12 months and 24 months respectively from the grant of their licences.
(4) The CA is examining the application for a free TV service licence submitted by Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTV) in April 2014 in accordance with the BO and established procedures, including examining the views received in the public consultation exercise on the application from June to July 2014 and requesting for several times further information from HKTV as required. Moreover, the CA has commissioned an independent consultant to conduct market analysis and prepare a consultancy report for assessing the possible impacts of the application on the local television market and overall broadcasting industry. The consultancy study is still in progress.
We believe that the CA will examine the application carefully and submit its recommendations to the CE in Council as soon as practicable.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015