LCQ7: Radio broadcasting signals of the Mainland and Hong Kong
Following is a question by the Hon Claudia Mo and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):
As Hong Kong needs to share with its neighbouring regions on the use of frequencies in the frequency band for FM analogue sound broadcasts, there may be mutual interferences in radio broadcasting services from Hong Kong with those from the Guangdong Province. In this respect, the Hong Kong Government and the Guangdong provincial authorities signed a Frequency Coordination Agreement in 2000. The aim was to put in place procedures for mutual notifications of technical parameters of transmitting stations and handling of interference cases, thereby protecting mutually the existing radio broadcasting services of both sides from interferences and establishing a mechanism for handling of interferences that might arise in future. On the other hand, it has been reported that broadcasts from some official radio stations of the Guangdong Province can currently be received at a number of locations in Hong Kong. Although the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development has already given his reply in respect of this matter to the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting of this Council, I and some members of the public still have doubts. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the Government has refused to disclose the contents of the aforesaid Agreement on the ground that they contain internal information on the use of radio frequencies in the neighbouring regions of the Guangdong Province, whether the Government has formally consulted the Guangdong provincial authorities to see if they agree to disclose the contents of the Agreement; if so, of the specific reply of the Guangdong provincial authorities;
(2) of the details of the regular meetings held between the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) and the Guangdong provincial authorities in the past five years regarding the use of radio frequencies on both sides, including the number, dates and venues of the meetings, as well as the lists of officials attending such meetings; whether OFCA has taken any follow-up actions on the issues discussed; if so, of the details;
(3) given that OFCA regularly deploys staff to conduct measurements of broadcasting signals of radio stations at various locations in Hong Kong, and will notify the Guangdong provincial authorities to make adjustments when the broadcasting signals transmitted from the Guangdong Province are found to have caused interferences, of the details of the measurements conducted by OFCA in the past five years, including the dates, locations and results of the measurements; of the details of the interferences found to have been caused by the broadcasting signals transmitted from the Guangdong Province during such measurements, including the dates and locations of the measurements, the magnitudes of the interferences, the radio broadcasting services in Hong Kong interfered, as well as the details of the adjustments made by the Guangdong provincial authorities;
(4) given that it is shown on the official websites of some radio stations in the Guangdong Province that Hong Kong is one of the broadcasting areas of such radio stations, whether the Government is aware of the situation; if so, whether it has approached the Guangdong provincial authorities to gain an understanding of the situation and taken follow-up actions; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) given that according to the assessments of some electrical and electronic engineering experts, some radio stations in the Guangdong Province have used amplifiers in their transmitting stations in Shenzhen and enhanced the radiated power of antennas, with the transmission direction of broadcasting signals being pointed to Hong Kong, whether the Government is aware of the situation; if so, whether it has approached the parties concerned to gain an understanding of the situation and taken follow-up actions; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
As regards the issues raised by the Hon Claudia Mo, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, having consulted the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA), made written replies to the Legislative Council Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting on March 29, 2016 and May 13, 2016 respectively to provide background information as follows:
As radio transmitting stations for broadcasting services are usually located at high hills in order to provide coverage over wide geographical areas and Hong Kong is in close proximity to Guangdong Province, the overspill of some radio signals across the border between the two places is unavoidable. Currently, FM radio broadcasting signals of the Mainland can be received in some parts of Hong Kong, whereas radio broadcasting signals of Hong Kong can also be received in the Mainland areas adjacent to Hong Kong. We have to point out that radio signals spilling over from the Mainland are not interference signals and do not affect the FM radio broadcasting services in both places. It is because the use of FM frequencies in Hong Kong and the Mainland has been coordinated in the technical aspects to ensure that both parties will not cause interference to the FM radio broadcasting services of the other side.
From January 2014 to April 2016, OFCA did not receive any complaints from local radio broadcasters about interference caused by radio signals from the Mainland. During the same period, OFCA received a total of 24 public complaint cases of suspected interference caused by radio signals from the Mainland. After conducting on-site investigations, OFCA found that these suspected interference cases were in fact related to frequency tuning of radio sets by the users. The problems were resolved after OFCA staff had explained the cases to the complainants and assisted them to re-tune their radio sets to the appropriate frequencies. In fact, there are currently seven major hilltop transmission stations in Hong Kong, covering different geographical areas with different frequencies, delivering seven FM radio channels to the public. The public may receive the relevant FM radio channels by tuning their radio sets to the appropriate frequencies corresponding to their reception areas.
According to the spectrum allocation arrangement of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the use of frequencies in the FM analogue sound broadcasting band has to be "shared" among neighbouring regions. With reference to the ITU's recommendations, Hong Kong has allocated the frequency band of 87 -108 MHz for FM radio broadcasting services. To avoid mutual interference, FM frequencies are generally separated by 0.2 MHz. Technically speaking, there are about 100 FM frequencies available between 87 MHz and 108 MHz. Currently, Hong Kong is using 49 FM frequencies.
The Frequency Coordination Agreement (the Agreement) was made by Guangdong and Hong Kong in accordance with the frequency allocation arrangement of the ITU and the principle of sharing frequency spectrum resource on a "reasonable" and "equitable" basis. By means of the Agreement, both parties have coordinated their technical standards for avoidance of mutual interference to their radio systems and devised mechanisms for handling possible radio frequency interference cases. They also have regular meetings to keep abreast of the development on the use of radio frequencies on both sides and to make coordination arrangements where necessary. The Agreement does not restrict the overspill of broadcasting signals to each other's areas. Even though certain radio signals spilling over from the Mainland can be received in the FM analogue sound broadcasting band in some areas of Hong Kong, this will not breach the coordination requirements of the Agreement so long as such radio signals do not affect the telecommunications and broadcasting services in Hong Kong. Correspondingly, some areas in the Mainland may receive FM analogue sound broadcasting and digital audio broadcasting (DAB) signals from Hong Kong in the relevant sound broadcasting bands. In recent years, the transmitting power of Hong Kong's DAB signal has been increased several times. As such power increase does not affect the telecommunications and broadcasting services in the Mainland, Hong Kong has not breached the coordination requirements of the Agreement.
Our reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(1) OFCA has not consulted the Mainland authority regarding the request of Hon Claudia Mo for disclosure of the content of the Agreement. As mentioned above, any FM radio broadcasting signals from the Mainland that can be received in some parts of Hong Kong is not tantamount to signals encroaching upon Hong Kong or interfering with the local FM radio broadcasting services. It does not constitute contravention of conditions of the Agreement. We therefore consider that there are no grounds for consulting the Mainland authority on disclosure of the content of the Agreement.
(2) Over the last five years, the authorities of Hong Kong and the Mainland have held 13 meetings in Hong Kong, Guangdong Province or Beijing (four times in 2012, thrice in 2013, once in 2014, and five times in 2015). Depending on the agenda of each meeting, the Hong Kong delegation was led by the Director-General, Deputy Director-General, Assistant Director or Chief Telecommunications Engineer of the OFCA as appropriate, and supported by staff of the Telecommunications Engineer grade.
Issues discussed at the meetings included technical coordination on the use of frequencies for telecommunications and broadcasting services, mechanisms for handling interference cases, frequency coordination of radio stations to be established, technical coordination of overspill signals of mobile phone networks, management of amateur radio stations, as well as preparatory and follow-up work in relation to the World Radiocommunication Conferences convened by the ITU. For issues discussed at each meeting, OFCA and the Mainland authority would follow up on the related work after the meetings, as well as further discuss and report the progress of those issues at the following coordination meetings.
(3) From 2012 to 2016, OFCA conducted measurements of radio broadcasting signals from time to time at seven locations in New Territories North, New Territories West, Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island West. The measurement results showed that the radio broadcasting signals from Guangdong Province had not caused any interference to the radio broadcasting services in Hong Kong. Since there has not been any signal interference, OFCA considers that there is no need for signal adjustment.
(4) The list of radio stations providing sound broadcasting services in Hong Kong can be found on OFCA's official website (website address: https://www.ofca.gov.hk/en/industry_focus/broadcasting/sound_broadcasting/index.html). The focus of frequency coordination between OFCA and the Mainland authority is to ensure that both parties could, in accordance with the requirement of the ITU, use radio frequencies on an equitable basis and avoid causing interference to the telecommunications and broadcasting services of the other side. Regarding Hon Claudia Mo's quoting of the claim by some Mainland websites about the inclusion of Hong Kong as their broadcasting coverage areas, since the issue is not related to frequency coordination, we consider that there is no need to seek clarification from or follow up with the Mainland authority.
(5) Provided that the telecommunications and broadcasting services in Hong Kong are not affected, radio broadcasters in Guangdong Province may adjust the transmission characteristics of individual transmission stations, including those located in Shenzhen, to cater for their service needs. According to OFCA's understanding, transmission stations in Shenzhen deploy omni-directional antennae and the transmission of such broadcasting signals is not directed towards Hong Kong.
As mentioned above, radio broadcasters in Hong Kong also make similar adjustments, including increasing the transmitting power of DAB services several times in recent years to improve coverage. Without affecting the telecommunications and broadcasting services in the Mainland, the analogue sound broadcasting and DAB signals from Hong Kong can be received in some areas in Guangdong Province. Therefore, we consider that there is no need to seek clarification from or follow up with the Mainland authority.
Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2016