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Government's response to media enquiries on free TV licence application decision

In response to media enquiries about the decision on domestic free television programme service (free TV) licence applications, a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said today (October 20):

"The Government understands the concerns of the public on the outcome of the free TV licence applications, and respects their right of expression on the matter.

The Government has on several occasions publicly explained in details the assessment criteria and the reasoning leading to the decision. Under the gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the free TV market, the Chief Executive (CE) in Council has assessed the applications against all relevant factors, including examining and considering in details many rounds of representations from all relevant applicants, before making a decision. The requirement of procedural fairness was strictly adhered to in the process.

The Government reiterates that the decision of granting approval-in-principle to two additional free TV licence applications will enable the number of free TV operators to double from two to four. Its aim was to introduce competition and provide more programming choice for audiences, while at the same time ensured a healthy and orderly development of the market. There is no question of protecting existing interest. Neither is there any political consideration.

When considering the number of licensees and the pace in opening up the market, the Government decided to adopt a gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the market, taking into account whether the healthy and orderly development of the market would be compromised if three additional free TV licences were to be granted.

The Government was notified four days ago of the filing of an application for leave to apply for judicial review. In view of the ongoing legal proceedings, it is not appropriate for us to make public the details, lest affecting the conduct of the legal proceedings concerned.

Moreover, the decision regarding free TV licence applications was made by the CE in Council. It has carefully considered all views from different parties before making a decision in accordance with established procedures. In line with the established system, the discussion content of the Executive Council meetings is not made public. We seek the understanding of the public in this respect.

In addition, the discussion content of the Executive Council meetings involved commercially sensitive information or even commercial secrets of the three applicants. The release of such information may cause damage to the three applicants, and may even lead to legal dispute.

The Government understands the views of the public and will continue to complete the outstanding work relating to the free TV licence applications in a fair and prudent manner, and will keep on implementing policies to facilitate the development of creative industry."

Sunday, October 20, 2013