LCQ22: Sound broadcasting licences
Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 18):
The sound broadcasting licences (the licences) held by the Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Company Limited and Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited will expire on August 25, 2016. The Telecommunications Ordinance (TO) (Cap. 106) provides that applications for licence renewal must be submitted to the Communications Authority (CA). CA is required to submit its recommendations to the Chief Executive in Council (CE in Council) on the renewal of the licences and the imposition of terms and conditions (such as the periods of validity of the licences), for consideration and decision by the latter. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the factors considered by CA in deciding how recommendations should be made in respect of the aforesaid issue; where such factors include the licensees' past performance in providing broadcasting services, of the assessment criteria and methods to be adopted by CA; whether CA will engage a consultant to study the assessment criteria and methods that should be adopted; if CA will, of the details and timetable, and whether CA will make its recommendations in line with the contents of the consultancy report;
(2) whether it will expeditiously release the matters which CE in Council will take into account in exercising the discretion whether to grant a licence (other than those factors to be taken into account as specified in TO), so as to avoid the aforesaid two licensees facing an uncertain business environment;
(3) whether it has assessed the penetration rate of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) since it granted three sound broadcasting licences for the provision of DAB services in 2011; if it has, of the details; and
(4) whether it will encourage the aforesaid two licensees to develop DAB services by means such as imposing additional conditions for renewal of their licences; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the four-part question is as follows:
(1) The existing analogue sound broadcasting licences (the Licences) held by the Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Company Limited and Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited will expire on August 25, 2016. According to the terms of the Licences, the two licensees shall submit their applications for renewals of the Licences (the Renewal Applications) to the Communications Authority (the CA) not less than 24 months before the expiry date of the Licences (i.e. on or before August 25, 2014). The CA has not yet received the Renewal Applications.
According to the Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106) (TO), the CA, upon receipt of the Renewal Applications, shall submit recommendations to the Chief Executive in Council (CE in Council) concerning the renewal of the Licences and the terms and conditions to be imposed not less than 15 months before the date for any renewal of the Licences (i.e. on or before May 25, 2015) or such shorter period as the CE in Council may permit.
The CA will process the Renewal Applications in accordance with the relevant provisions of the TO and established procedures. As understood, in processing the Renewal Applications, the CA will consider the past performance of the licensees concerned in relation to their compliance with the statutory requirements, licence conditions and codes of practice, as well as the licensees' operational ability, financial capability, technical soundness and programming arrangements, etc. The CA will also hold a public consultation and commission an agency to conduct an opinion survey to gauge public views on the performance of the licensees.
(2) According to section 13E of the TO, the CA shall submit recommendations to the CE in Council concerning the renewal of the Licences and the terms and conditions to be imposed. Having considered the recommendations submitted, the CE in Council may renew the Licences subject to such terms and conditions as he may specify; or renew the Licences by granting new licences in substitution therefor, and in doing so, may impose such terms and conditions as he may specify; or refuse to renew the Licences. The Administration will process and consider the Renewal Applications, upon receipt, in accordance with the law and established procedures as appropriate in the prevailing circumstances.
(3) The established position of the Government is that digital audio broadcasting (DAB) services are a supplement, rather than a replacement of analogue broadcasting services. As DAB services have only been rolled out for a relatively short period of time, we have therefore not conducted any assessment on the penetration rate of the service. This notwithstanding, since the issue of sound broadcasting licences for the provision of DAB services, the Government has closely monitored the implementation of DAB services and assessed its effectiveness, and noted that progress has been made in DAB services. The Administration will continue to promote DAB services through various means.
(4) The Government has no plan at present to replace analogue sound broadcasting with DAB and has not considered imposing any conditions for renewal of the Licences to require analogue sound broadcasting licensees to develop DAB services.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014