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SCIT speaks about merger of BA and TA

Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, speaking to the media after addressing the opening of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Convention 2004 today (October 27):

SCIT: I mentioned in this event last year that we were examining the duties of the Broadcasting Authority and the Telecommunications Authority to see if they should be merged in the light of technological developments and blurring boundaries between the Internet, telecommunications and broadcasting in a converging environment. We also discussed the subject of convergence under Digital 21 Strategy published in March this year.

We have now developed a more concrete idea. Our intended way forward, in a nutshell, is to set up a single, lean and skilled, and responsive regulator overseeing the entire electronic communications sector.

Firstly, we want a single regulatory body that responds to converging technologies and services. We need a regulator with a broad vision to formulate quick and well co-ordinated responses to facilitate the provision of even more new services and at the same time to put in place appropriate measures to safeguard public interests.

Secondly, we want a regulator that is lean and skilled. I am referring to a new regulatory philosophy as exemplified by the international paradigm shift from detailed rule-making to competition-based regulation of the communications sector. Detailed rules and guidelines could quickly become obsolete or worse still, hurdles to innovation and investment. We suggest adopting a new regulatory philosophy that the regulator will intervene only when it is necessary to do so.

Thirdly, we also want a regulator that is responsive to competing demands from different sectors, and able to balance the aspiration of the public and the needs of the industry. I envisage an active tripartite arrangement where the regulator works as a partner with the stakeholders from the industry and the public.

This is a thumbnail sketch on the way forward for the development of the future regulatory institution for the communications sector in Hong Kong. We intend to finalise our thinking in the next couple of months, put out a consultation document in early 2005 for a three-month consultation period, and hopefully by the middle of next year, we will be able to collate all the input and start preparing for implementation of our proposal.

Reporter: January 1, 2006, the target date?

SCIT: What we need is to have a piece of legislation, a legislation in the hand of the Legislative Council. We will start the process before the middle of next year.

Reporter: Do you see a major change of the regulatory regime as a result of the merger of the regulatory agencies. The licensing of the regulatory regime, will that be vigorously changed by the merger or will it be the same licences run by different authorities?

SCIT: There could possibly be changes. We don't know yet. We need to look at the details and the input from the consultations to decide what it is. But conceivably, it is a possibility that the whole licensing regime could change as well together with the regulation.

Reporter: Will it put pressure on PCCW ...It's one of the things that CAS done?

SCIT: What we are doing has nothing to do with individual firm. This is a general philosophy and it will be applicable to everyone concerned.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004