LCQ20: Provision of analogue TV broadcasting services by RTHK upon expiry of ATV's free TV licence
Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (November 25):
The Chief Executive in Council decided on April 1, 2015 (i) not to renew the domestic free television programme service licence of Asia Television Limited (ATV) and, for the purpose of complying with the requirement under subsection (1)(a) of section 8 of Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562) (i.e. notice of non-renewal had to be served at least 12 months before the expiry of the validity of the licence), (ii) to extend, under subsection (2) of that section, the term of ATV's existing licence to April 1, 2016. In view of this, the Communications Authority has given notice to ATV on the withdrawal of the two sets of analogue television channels and 1.5 digital multiplexes assigned to it with effect from April 2, 2016. On the other hand, the Government has requested Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) to utilise the two sets of analogue television channels to broadcast suitable programmes after April 1, 2016 until analogue switch-off by end of 2020. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the estimated additional manpower needed and extra annual operating expenditure to be incurred by RTHK to provide analogue television broadcasting services;
(2) whether it has formulated a specific timetable for the spectrum handover between ATV and RTHK, and whether it has provided additional resources for RTHK to meet the extra expenditure thus incurred, so that preparation for the handover arrangements can be made as early as possible; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) of the number of principal and fill-in transmission stations currently operated by ATV; whether the inter-departmental task force set up by the authorities has discussed with ATV the operational and handover arrangements for these transmission stations before and after ATV discontinues its broadcasting services in order that RTHK can expeditiously take over from ATV and provide the analogue television broadcasting services upon the latter's discontinuation of broadcasting services to ensure a “seamless handover”; and
(4) of the work progress of the re-planning of the proposed New Broadcasting House of RTHK to be built in Tseung Kwan O, the latest cost estimate, and the anticipated time for completing the planning and re-submitting a funding application to the Finance Committee of this Council; whether the authorities have assessed if the planning work for the project needs to be expedited to align with the provision of analogue television broadcasting services by RTHK?
My reply to the four-part question is as follows:
(1) to (3) On April 1, 2015, the Chief Executive (CE) in Council decided not to renew the domestic free television programme service (free TV) licence of Asia Television Limited (ATV). To comply with the requirement under the Broadcasting Ordinance as to the length of notice for non-renewal of licence, the CE in Council decided to extend the term of ATV's existing licence to April 1, 2016. We understand that the non-renewal decision will leave the viewing public with fewer free television (TV) programme choices during the transition period. In particular, as a result of the decision, the nearly 400 000 households that are not yet equipped with digital terrestrial television (DTT) sets or set-top boxes can only have access to two analogue TV programme channels. To mitigate the impact arising from the lack of free TV channel choices, the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) is preparing to broadcast programmes of its DTT programme channels on ATV's two existing analogue TV programme channels, and the preparation work is underway. The Government is studying and firming up the detailed arrangements. The Government will provide additional resources to RTHK in accordance with established procedures, taking into account RTHK's staffing and resource requirements.
The Government has established a task force, comprising representatives from relevant bureaux and departments, to handle various issues arising from the non-renewal of ATV's licence. Currently, the transmission networks for free TV broadcasting services in Hong Kong are constructed and managed by two free TV licensees (i.e. ATV and Television Broadcasts Limited). The present analogue TV and DTT transmission networks consist of six main analogue and DTT stations as well as over 30 analogue and DTT fill-in stations, some of which are operated and managed by ATV and situated on Government land or Government-owned premises leased to ATV. In view of the expiry of ATV's free TV licence, the Government is progressively terminating the leases concerned. The task force will follow up on the relevant issues to ensure the smooth handover of, among other things, the spectrum to be vacated by ATV and the transmission stations operated and managed by ATV upon the expiry of its free TV licence.
(4) The funding application for the construction of the New Broadcasting House (New BH) of RTHK was not supported by the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in January 2014. Most PWSC Members agreed in principle that there was a need for a New BH but raised serious concern over the cost estimate and scope of the project. RTHK and the Architectural Services Department have since early 2014 been reviewing the proposal, having regard to the concerns of the PWSC of LegCo over the cost estimate and scope of the New BH Project, with a view to working out the most cost-effective proposal which can address Members' concern. As the problems encountered during the review process were more complicated than expected, we need more time to complete the review process. We will take forward the New BH Project in accordance with the procedures for implementing Government capital works projects. Upon completion of the review and internal planning, we will follow up on the proposal in accordance with the established mechanism.
Ends/Wednesday, November 25, 2015