LCQ16: Domestic free television programme service licence applications
Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):
The Broadcasting Authority received applications for domestic free television programme service licences one after another from City Telecom (Hong Kong) Limited, Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited between end-2009 and early-2010. It has been reported that the Executive Council will soon discuss recommendations on the grant of such licences, and the two existing licensees have expressed concern in this regard. It has also been reported that if the Government decides to grant such licences, a licensee may even consider applying for judicial review. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the current progress in vetting the above licence applications; how the relevant licensing conditions and broadcasting mode, etc. compare with those of the two existing licences; at present, the expected time of announcing the results; whether it has estimated the earliest possible time that new operators, if granted the licences, can officially launch free television programme services; and
(b) whether it has received formal complaints or views from the two existing licensees, or has looked into their concerns; if it has, how it will respond to their views; whether it has assessed the possible reactions of the two existing licensees after announcing the results of the applications and has formulated a contingency plan; how it ensures that the vetting process of the aforesaid three licence applications will not be affected by any external pressure, and aims to provide more choices to viewers and break the existing monopoly, and vetting is based on public interest, and strictly adheres to the principles of fairness and impartiality?
Regarding the questions raised by the Hon Frederick Fung, my reply is as follows:
(a) The Broadcasting Authority (BA) has received applications for domestic free television programme service licences from City Telecom (Hong Kong) Limited, Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited. The BA is assessing the three applications in accordance with the Broadcasting Ordinance (BO) and established procedures, taking into account a number of factors such as the BO's requirements (with which the two existing licensees must also comply), assessment criteria set out in the BA's Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences, public opinions and the possible impact of new licences on the free television programme service market. Upon completion of the assessment, the BA will submit its recommendations on the three applications to the Chief Executive (CE) in Council in accordance with the BO. The outcome will be announced after a decision has been made by the CE in Council. As the assessment is still underway, it is not appropriate for us to speculate or comment on the outcome.
(b) The BA conducted a public consultation exercise from July to September 2010 pursuant to the BO to collect public views on the three licence applications. We understand that the BA received a total of 256 submissions during the consultation period, including those from the two existing licensees, i.e. Television Broadcasts Limited and Asia Television Limited (ATV). In their submissions, the two licensees have raised some concerns, including suggestions that if new licences are to be granted, the new licensees should be subject to the same licence conditions, and that new licences should not be granted before the expiry of their current licences. The BA will give due regard to these views when formulating its recommendations, and will submit a summary of views received to the CE in Council for consideration. Separately, the CE in Council recently received an appeal against the BA’s decision from the legal representative of ATV, and the appeal is being processed.
It is the Government's 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, as an independent regulatory body established by statute, will handle the three applications 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. In deciding whether to grant a free television programme service licence, the CE in Council will take into account all relevant factors and be guided by public interest.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011