Chief Executive in Council approves in principle two applications for free TV licences
The Government today (October 15) announced that the Chief Executive (CE) in Council has approved in principle the applications of Fantastic Television Limited (Fantastic TV) and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE) for a domestic free television programme service (free TV) licence, whereas the application submitted by Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTVN) has been rejected.
The CE in Council has thoroughly discussed the three free TV licence applications. Having considered holistically all relevant factors and the overall development of the local free television market, the CE in Council has decided that a gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the free TV market is prudent and in the public interest.
Speaking at a press conference today, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, said, "This decision is not only in line with the Government's established broadcasting policy to introduce competition and increase programme choice and diversity, but at the same time minimises the risk of any possible adverse impact on the free TV market as a whole."
While not all three free TV licence applications were approved at this juncture, Mr So stressed that it did not preclude the possibility of allowing more free TV operators as and when appropriate.
In processing the free TV licence applications, the CE in Council has considered an array of relevant factors including the free TV licence applications submitted by the three applicants, the recommendations of the former Broadcasting Authority (now the Communications Authority) (the Authority), statutory requirements under the Broadcasting Ordinance (BO), the assessment criteria in the Authority's "Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong", the overall sustainability of the free TV market, the consultant's reports on the competition implications of new entrants to the local free TV market (which include an assessment of the relative competitiveness of each applicant), all representations and responses submitted by the relevant parties, all relevant latest developments, all public views received, the Government's prevailing broadcasting policy, and the public interest.
According to Fantastic TV's and HKTVE's proposals, a total of two channels (i.e. one for each) will be provided within 12 months after the granting of the free TV licences. Fantastic TV will invest over $1 billion in the initial six years from the launch of the proposed service whereas HKTVE will invest over $600 million in the initial three years from the launch of the proposed service. The key features of the preliminary application particulars of Fantastic TV and HKTVE are in the Annex.
"Under the gradual and orderly approach, the CE in Council, in deciding whether to grant 'approval-in-principle' to each of the free TV licence applications, has assessed the free TV licence applications against various objective assessment criteria. These criteria include financial capability, the programming investment, programming strategy and capability and technical soundness of the proposed service," Mr So said.
"We believe that Fantastic TV and HKTVE, if formally granted the free TV licences at a later stage, will facilitate the bringing in of additional investments into local programme production. This will not only provide more programme choices for the audience, but also create more job opportunities in the creative industries," he added.
The CE in Council has granted "approval-in-principle" to the applications concerned at this stage, subject to the CE in Council's further review and final determination of the applications at a later stage. The granting of an "approval-in-principle" to a free TV licence application is not the granting of a licence under the BO. It does not impose an obligation on the CE in Council to formally grant a licence in due course. The "approval-in-principle" does not confer, and should not be understood as conferring, any right, interest or expectation (whether legal, equitable or otherwise) on the applicants concerned that a free TV licence will be granted by the CE in Council under the BO.
As the next step, the Administration and the Authority will seek further information as necessary from Fantastic TV and HKTVE, and discuss with them the proposed licence conditions.
The Authority will then further review Fantastic TV's and HKTVE's applications and submit to the CE in Council recommendations on whether a free TV licence should be formally granted under sections 8(1) and 10(1) of the BO. The CE in Council will further review and take a final view on Fantastic TV's and HKTVE's abilities to meet the licensing criteria as well as each and every relevant aspect of their free TV licence applications before making a final decision.
The draft licences for Fantastic TV and HKTVE will contain general terms and conditions similar to those of the licences held by existing free TV licensees, with specific provisions relevant to them.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013