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Chapter 2 Sustaining the Development of the Broadcasting Industry

The Development of Digital Terrestrial Television Services

Extending Digital Terrestrial Television Coverage

Since the launch of Digital Terrestrial Television (“DTT”) services in late 2007, the two free TV licensees, namely ATV and TVB, have constructed by phases a total of 29 transmitting stations. By September 2013, this had brought the overall DTT coverage to at least 99% of the population, which is on par with that of analogue television. More people can now enjoy better quality pictures and enhanced features, including high-definition television (“HDTV”) with more programming choices available from additional television programme channels and value-added services (such as closed captioning, electronic programme guides and interactive services).

Development of Digital Audio Broadcasting Services

The three Digital Audio Broadcasting (“DAB”) licensees, namely Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited (“DBC”), Metro and Phoenix U Radio Limited (“Phoenix U Radio”), formally launched DAB services in 2012 in accordance with their licence requirements. The Radio Television Hong Kong (“RTHK”) also formally launched its DAB service in September 2012.

The DAB transmission network, comprising seven principal transmitting stations located at Beacon Hill, Castle Peak, Cloudy Hill, Golden Hill, Kowloon Peak, Lamma Island and Mount Gough, was officially launched in June 2012. A new DAB gap-filler was completed in June 2015.

Handling of Broadcast Complaints

The CA does not pre-censor broadcast content, but adopts a complaint-driven approach to ensure that broadcast content complies with existing legislation, licence conditions and the codes of practice it issued. As the executive arm of the CA, we assist the CA in handling complaints about broadcast materials in accordance with provisions stipulated in the Broadcasting (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap 391) (“B(MP)O”) and the broadcast complaint handling procedures of the CA.

In 2014/15, we dealt with 2 694 cases (41 449 complaints)1 , which represented a decline of 11% in the number of cases, and an increase of 219% in the number of complaints processed 2, as compared with the figures recorded in 2013/14 (3 029 cases and 12 998 complaints). Among these, 23 cases (29 439 complaints) were referred to the Broadcast Complaints Committee (“BCC”) under the CA for consideration before being submitted to the CA for deliberation and determination.  Details of the complaint cases considered by the CA are published on the CA website.  Under powers delegated by the CA, the Director-General of Communications handled the remaining 2 671 cases (12 010 complaints). These complaints were related to breaches of a minor nature, or allegations which did not constitute any breach or were outside the remit of section 11(1) of the B(MP)O, that is, the substance of the complaints did not involve a contravention of legislation, licence conditions or codes of practice.

1 To ensure operational efficiency, complaints with similar allegations against the same issue or broadcast material are handled together and counted as a single case.
2 The significant increase in the number of complaints was attributed to a complaint case against a television programme broadcast on TVB and TVB Network Vision Limited which gave rise to over 27 000 complaints.

Licence Administration

Applications for Renewal of Television Programme Service Licences

The free TV licences of ATV and TVB are due to expire on 30 November 2015. In accordance with the BO and established procedures, we assisted the CA in processing the applications for licence renewals.   Having examined the past performance of the two free TV licensees and taken into account the views of the public, the CA considered that the overall performance of ATV was unsatisfactory and that its licence should not be renewed while the licence for TVB should be renewed for another 12 years from 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2027. Having regard to, inter alia, the CA’s recommendations, the CE in C decided in April 2015 not to renew ATV’s free TV licence and to extend the term of ATV’s existing licence to 1 April 2016 in accordance with the provision in the BO.  The CE in C further decided in May 2015 that the free TV licence of TVB should be renewed for 12 years from 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2027.  

We assisted the CA in discharging its statutory duty by submitting to the CE in C its recommendations for the renewal of the pay TV licence of PCCW Media, which is due to expire on 25 September 2015.  Having reviewed its past performance, and taking into account the views of the public, the CA recommended that PCCW Media’s pay TV licence should be renewed for a term of 12 years commencing from 26 September 2015 to 25 September 2027.  Having regard to the CA’s recommendations, PCCW Media’s licence renewal application was approved by the CE in C in December 2014.

During the period, two applications for renewal of other licensable television programme service licences were processed. They were from DOCOMO interTouch Company Limited and Showers of Blessing Evangelistic Ministry (Hong Kong) Limited for the provision of television programme services in hotel rooms in Hong Kong.

Applications for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences

In October 2013, the CE in C approved in principle the applications for domestic free television programme service licences by Fantastic TV and HKTVE. We followed up with the two applicants and assisted the CA in finalising its recommendations on the two free TV licence applications to the CE in C.  These recommendations were submitted to the CE in C in January 2015.

Having regard to, inter alia, the CA’s recommendations on the licence application of HKTVE, the CE in C in April 2015 formally granted a 12-year licence to HKTVE for the provision of free TV service.  HKTVE is required under its licence to launch its first free TV programme channel within 12 months after the grant of licence, i.e. by 31 March 2016.  OFCA will assist the CA in monitoring HKTVE as it launches its free TV service in accordance with its plan as approved by the CA. 

Separately, in May 2015, the CE in C, having taken into account the request of Fantastic TV, invited the CA to further consider any relevant supplementary information and confirmation that Fantastic TV was required to provide by mid-September 2015, and to submit further recommendations to the CE in C on Fantastic TV’s free TV licence application. We will continue to assist the CA in submitting its recommendations to the CE in C on the licence application of Fantastic TV.

The CA received two new applications for free TV licences – from HKTV in April 2014 and Forever Top in April 2015.  We will assist the CA in assessing the applications properly and prudently with a view to submitting its recommendations to the CE in C as soon as practicable.

Applications for Renewal of Analogue Sound Broadcasting Licences

The analogue sound broadcasting licences of CRHK and Metro will expire on 25 August 2016. CRHK and Metro submitted their applications for licence renewal to the CA on 31 July 2014 and 25 August 2014 respectively.  We assisted the CA in carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the performance of CRHK and Metro, including conducting a two-month public consultation exercise in September 2014 to collect public views on the renewal applications. The CA’s recommendations on the licence renewal applications were submitted to the CE in C in May 2015.