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Communications Authority Bill to be introduced

The Government published in the Gazette today (June 18) the Communications Authority Bill which seeks to establish a unified regulatory body, the Communications Authority (CA), to cover both telecommunications and broadcasting sectors. The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on June 30.

"Rapid advancement in technology has led to the increasing convergence of the two sectors. Hong Kong needs to review its overall regulatory regimes to meet the challenges arising from such changes effectively. As the first step of this review, we propose to restructure the regulatory institutional arrangements by merging the two existing regulators, the Broadcasting Authority (BA) and the Telecommunications Authority (TA)," a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said.

Under the Bill, the CA will administer and enforce the existing Broadcasting Ordinance (BO), the Broadcasting Authority Ordinance which is to be renamed, the Telecommunications Ordinance (TO) and the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance. The existing statutory powers and functions of the BA and the TA will be transferred to the CA.

The CA will be a governing board and comprise no fewer than five and no more than ten non-official Members (including a non-official Chairperson), a public officer and the Director-General of Communications (DG Com) as an ex-officio Member. Except the DG Com, all other Members of the CA will be appointed by the Chief Executive.

"We originally proposed to appoint only five non-official Members to the CA. In response to the views received in rounds of public consultation, we propose to allow flexibility to increase the number of non-official Members," said the spokesman.

The Administration proposes to form the executive arm of the CA by merging the Broadcasting Division of the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority. The executive arm will be a government department named the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) which will operate as a trading fund. The department will be headed by DG Com. Upon review, the Administration also proposes to disband the TELA and transfer its functions in respect of the control of indecent and obscene articles, film censorship and newspaper registration to the OFCA. These activities will be funded by the Government under a new General Revenue Head. The TELA's functions relating to issuing entertainment licences will be taken up by the Home Affairs Department.

"We will conduct a comprehensive review of the existing regulatory regimes after the establishment of the CA to update and rationalise the existing TO and BO," the spokesman added.

Friday, June 18, 2010