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CEDB's response to media enquiries on ATV matters

     In response to media enquiries on matters related to Asia Television Limited (ATV), a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) said today (February 7):

     "We are very concerned about ATV's recent development. On April 1 last year, the Chief Executive (CE) in Council decided not to renew ATV's existing domestic free television programme service (free TV) licence. The term of its licence was extended to April 1, 2016. Such extension was a statutory requirement. The Government must act in accordance with the law.

     "As a licensee, ATV has the obligation to provide services in accordance with relevant statutory and licence requirements in the run up to the expiry of its licence. Should the licensee decides not to continue to operate due to various reasons, it should seek CE in Council's approval to give up its licence early. During the licence period, the Government should avoid interfering into the internal operation of a licensee. The Communications Authority (CA), as the regulator, will continue to closely monitor ATV's operation.

     "We understand that the public will be left with fewer programme choices, especially the nearly 400 000 households that are not yet equipped with integrated digital television sets or digital terrestrial television (DTT) set-top boxes. These households can only access the remaining two analogue programme channels. The Government announced in April last year that Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) will provide a stop-gap analogue TV service by broadcasting the programmes of its DTT channels on the two analogue channels to be vacated by ATV.

     "Although the CE in Council decided not to renew ATV's licence on April 1 last year, it granted a free TV licence to HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE) on the same day. HKTVE is required to launch its free TV service by March 31 this year. On top of using a fixed network, the CA has also approved HKTVE's application to use part of the spectrum vacated by ATV when its licence has expired as an additional means to transmit its free TV service. We believe that HKTVE will launch its free TV service by using spectrum as a transmission means as soon as possible.

     "Preparation by RTHK is now in full steam, including the procurement of technical services for the provision of analogue broadcasting services. RTHK is processing the tender in accordance with the established procedures, with a view to awarding the tender as soon as possible. At the same time, the Government has begun since mid-2015 to progressively regain possession of the government lands or premises of ATV's transmission sites to facilitate RTHK or other free TV operators to install or provide transmission services. Related work is still underway.

     "The Government will expedite the on-time launching of new free TV service (including RTHK and HKTVE). That said, we have to reiterate that these new free TV services cannot commence broadcast immediately if ATV ceases operation abruptly before its licence expires, no matter when. This is because of the need to follow the concerned statutory procedures for the revocation of a free TV licence. The sudden withdrawal of spectrum assigned to ATV is a serious matter and must be dealt with in accordance with procedures. The concerned broadcasters also have to coordinate in terms of technical aspects.

     "The Government has established a task force, led by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and comprising representatives from relevant government departments, to handle the issues arising from the non-renewal of ATV's free TV licence to strive for a smooth transition."

Ends/Sunday, February 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:15