Public consultation on phase one of review on Broadcasting Ordinance and Telecommunications Ordinance launched
The Government today (February 20) launched a three-month public consultation to gauge views from members of the public, the broadcasting industry and other stakeholders on the proposals of phase one of the review on the Broadcasting Ordinance (BO) and the Telecommunications Ordinance (TO). The review aims to respond to the evolution of infotainment and modernise the regulatory framework to provide a balanced competitive environment for the broadcasting market and facilitate the industry's development.
The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, said at a press conference today that the blossoming of infotainment media in recent years, such as Internet-based TV and sound programme services, has changed the operating environment of the broadcasting industry in Hong Kong. The imbalance in the regulatory regimes for traditional broadcasting services and Internet media has become self-evident. The former is subject to more restrictions on their operation under the stringent regulatory control of the existing licensing regime, while the latter is exempted from the licensing regime.
Mr Yau said that in view of the above, the Government took up the role of a facilitator and reviewed the existing policies and measures with a view to removing obstacles for the traditional broadcasting sector and reducing the gap between the traditional broadcasting sectors and Internet media in terms of regulatory control. The Government's goal is to facilitate innovation of and investment in the industry to bring about greater benefits to the community.
The review concludes that the existing broadcasting regulatory framework is proportionate and reasonable and should remain intact. As regards Internet-based TV and sound programme services, with reference to overseas experience, the Government is of the view that they should remain not subject to the broadcasting licensing controls. The Government considers that while maintaining the existing regulatory regime intact, there is room for relaxing the level of regulation for individual aspects. The legislative amendment proposals raised by the Government are set out below:
Cross-media ownership restrictions
The policy intent of the existing cross-media ownership restrictions is to forestall conflict of interest and editorial uniformity. With the proliferation of online infotainment covering a range of different tastes, focuses and stances, the risk of traditional media achieving editorial uniformity has been significantly reduced nowadays. Therefore, the Government has proposed to remove some of the obsolete categories from the definition of "disqualified persons" and narrow the scope of "relative" under the definition of "associate" to facilitate business development of the traditional broadcasting industry.
Foreign control restrictions
The existing foreign control restrictions ensure that licensees are controlled by local individuals or companies who are responsive to and cater for the local audience's interests, tastes and culture. The Government has proposed that the existing foreign control restrictions should remain intact, with only minor refinements of the threshold percentages of foreign investments that are subject to the prior approval of the Communications Authority (CA) with a view to reducing the compliance burden on investors while maintaining suitable control in the system.
Requirement of a licensee being a non-subsidiary company
The existing requirement aims to ensure that the licensees would focus on their broadcasting businesses under minimal influence or interference by other related entities. In the light of the evolutions over time and the present competitive environment in the market, the Government has proposed to remove the requirement so that licensees will be given the flexibility in arranging their businesses and in exploring other related business opportunities.
Taking into account the high pervasiveness and impact of TV (in particular free TV) and radio, the Government has proposed that the existing regime with the Chief Executive in Council being the licensing authority for local free/pay broadcasting services should remain intact. It is also proposed that the CA should remain the licensing authority for non-domestic TV licences (covering TV service not primarily targeting Hong Kong, e.g. satellite TV) and other licensable TV licences (providing hotel TV service).
For details of the above legislative amendment proposals, please see the Annex.
Mr Yau said that the Government would like to widely solicit views from different sectors of the community on the amendment proposals to shape the way forward for the broadcasting industry. The Government aims at introducing an amendment bill incorporating proposals that have received broad consensus into the Legislative Council in early 2019.
The review of the BO and the TO is being conducted in two phases. The public consultation for phase two of the review, expected to commence later in 2018, will focus on the telecommunications regulatory regime as enshrined in the TO to cope with the advancement of telecommunications technologies, including the imminent arrival of the fifth generation mobile communications (5G) services and application of such 5G services in the era of the Internet of Things.
The public consultation exercise on phase one of the review will close on May 19, 2018. Members of the public may send in their views direct by email to BOTOReview@cedb.gov.hk, by fax to 2351 2791 or by post to the Ordinance Review Team, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (Communications and Creative Industries Branch), 21/F, West Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong. The consultation document can be downloaded from the website of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (www.cedb.gov.hk/ccib).
Ends/Tuesday, February 20, 2018