LCQ6: Progress of outstanding work relating to applications for domestic free television programme service licences
Following is a question by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (April 9):
On October 15 last year, the Chief Executive in Council decided that the applications for a domestic free television programme service licence (licence) from the Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited (licence applicants) be granted approval-in-principle. It has been more than five months since the authorities made that decision, but the progress of granting the licences has not yet been announced. Some members of the public have relayed to me that the public hope that the new licensees can start broadcasting expeditiously to offer more television programmes for their choices, and to boost the development of the local television industry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective progress of the outstanding work relating to the two aforesaid licence applications; whether it knows when the Communications Authority (CA) will start discussing with the two licence applicants the details of the licences;
(2) when CA is expected to submit to the Chief Executive in Council its recommendation on whether or not licences should be formally granted to the two licence applicants, and when the latter is expected to make the relevant decisions; of the earliest time the authorities expect the two licence applicants to start broadcasting after the issuance of the licences; and
(3) whether the authorities will specify in the licences that the licensees are required to produce or procure a specified quantity of locally produced programmes, so as to boost the development of local television production?
On October 15, 2013, the Government announced that the Chief Executive (CE) in Council had decided to grant approval-in-principle to the applications for domestic free television programme service (free TV) licences from Fantastic Television Limited (Fantastic TV) and HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE), subject to the CE in Council's further review and final determination under the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562) at the Second Stage.
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(1) and (2) The Communications Authority (CA) has immediately proceeded with the follow-up work after the announcement of the decision. Specifically, the CA has required Fantastic TV and HKTVE to submit further information on a number of issues as follows:
(i) an updated free TV licence application reflecting changes agreed since the first submission;
(ii) further information, including statutory declarations, undertakings and legal opinions, for the purpose of verifying the corporate status of Fantastic TV and HKTVE after the proposed corporate restructuring;
(iii) confirmation that the proposed free TV services will not be "bundled" with any transmission or television programme service which is available only on a subscription basis;
(iv) undertaking that the existing users or viewers of the domestic pay television programme service provided by an affiliate of Fantastic TV and HKTVE will be entitled to view their respective proposed free TV service regardless of whether the viewers continue to subscribe for the domestic pay television programme service of that affiliate; and
(v) confirmation that Fantastic TV and HKTVE will not act as mere "content providers" supplying programme materials to any of its affiliates who is a domestic pay television programme service licensee.
The CA is reviewing the further information submitted by Fantastic TV and HKTVE, and their applications. Meanwhile, the CA has just issued the draft licences to the two applicants, following which the CA will discuss with them the proposed licence conditions therein.
Subject to submission of all the relevant information by the two applicants and the progress of their corporate restructuring, the CA will complete the assessment as soon as possible and submit to the CE in Council recommendations on whether a free TV licence should be formally granted to each of the two applicants and the associated licence conditions. Upon receipt of such recommendations from the CA, the CE in Council will make the final determination as soon as possible with a view to bringing more quality programme choices to the public soon.
According to the proposals put forward by Fantastic TV and HKTVE in their applications, the two applicants would commence the integrated Cantonese and English channels within 12 months and 24 months respectively from the grant of licences.
(3) We believe that the CA will take into account the views of the public and stakeholders during its discussion with the two applicants on the proposed licence conditions and consider whether requirements should be imposed in relation to locally produced programmes. In coming to a decision, the CE in Council will also take into account the CA's recommendations and public views.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014