Chapter 2 Sustaining the Development of the Broadcasting Industry
The Development of Digital Terrestrial Television Services
Re-assignment of Broadcasting Spectrum for Domestic Free Television Programme Services
Following the expiry of Asia Television Limited’s (“ATV”) free TV licence on 1 April 2016, all the broadcasting frequencies assigned to ATV (comprising two sets of analogue frequency channels, one digital multiplex of the single frequency network and half of the capacity of one digital multiplex of the multiple frequency network (“MFN”) in 470 – 806 MHz of the Ultra High Frequency band) were withdrawn after 1 April 2016.
Starting from 2 April 2016, HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (“HKTVE”) was assigned half of the digital multiplex of the MFN withdrawn from ATV for delivery of its digital terrestrial television (“DTT”) service. The spectrum assignee of the other half of the MFN multiplex is Television Broadcasts Limited (“TVB”).
To mitigate the impact arising from a reduction of analogue free TV programme choices on the viewing public, Radio Television Hong Kong (“RTHK”) was assigned two sets of analogue frequency channels on 2 April 2016 to broadcast its TV services in analogue format upon expiry of ATV’s free TV licence until the switching off of analogue TV broadcasting services (“analogue switch-off”). The Government’s working target for analogue switch-off is end-2020, and a review will be conducted in 2017-18.
Extending DTT Coverage
Free TV licensees are responsible for the construction of transmission network to deliver their DTT services throughout Hong Kong. Since the launch of DTT services in late 2007, a total of 29 transmitting stations have been constructed by phases. With OFCA’s support, the free TV licensees continued their efforts to extend coverage of their DTT transmission network. Between November 2016 and January 2017, the transmitting power of three of the stations was increased to further improve the reception of DTT services in Cheung Chau, Lantau Island and Yuen Long. Currently, the DTT transmission network has achieved an overall coverage of at least 99% of the population, which is on a par with that of the analogue TV services.
Roll-out of New Domestic Free Television Programme Services
HKTVE started to provide its licensed free TV service by using a fixed network from 31 March 2016; and by spectrum as well from 2 April 2016. In accordance with its free TV licence, HKTVE launched a 24-hour Chinese channel on 31 March 2016, and a 17- hour English channel on 31 March 2017.
On 31 May 2016, the CE in C decided to formally grant a 12-year free TV licence to Fantastic TV, under which it is required to deliver via a fixed network a Chinese channel by 30 May 2017 and an English channel by 30 May 2018.
In June 2016, Fantastic TV applied to the CA to use spectrum, on top of a fixed network, to transmit its licensed free TV service. In line with the programme requirements imposed on and the investment commitments made by the other two spectrum-based free TV licensees (viz. TVB and HKTVE), the CA advised Fantastic TV of similar requirements with which it should comply in order to ensure that Fantastic TV, if permitted by the CA to use spectrum as an additional transmission means, would operate on a level playing field as the other spectrum-based free TV licensees. After rounds of exchanges, Fantastic TV indicated in January 2017 that its focus at that time was to launch the free TV service by using a fixed network. The CA has put on hold the processing of Fantastic TV’s application as per its request. We stand ready to assist the CA to resume the processing work of Fantastic TV’s application as and when it is ready to resurrect the discussion with the CA on the additional requirements pertinent to spectrum assignment.
Fantastic TV formally launched its Chinese channel on 14 May 2017. Signals of the programmes are delivered through the fixed network operated by Hong Kong Cable Television Limited (“HKCTV”). HKCTV’s fixed network has a home pass of more than 2.3 million. Residents of buildings with in-building coaxial cable distribution systems (“IBCCDS”) installed by HKCTV can readily receive Fantastic TV’s free TV services. For buildings with their own IBCCDS, residents can receive Fantastic TV’s services through interconnection of their IBCCDS with HKCTV’s network.
Handling of Broadcast Complaints
The CA does not pre-censor broadcast content. Instead, it adopts a complaint-driven approach to ensure that broadcast content complies with existing legislation, licence conditions and the codes of practice that it has 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 2016/17, we handled 1 856 cases (17 078 complaints)1, which represented a decline of 7% in the number of cases, and an increase of 14% in the number of complaints processed2, as compared with the figures recorded in 2015/16 (1 999 cases and 14 992 complaints). Among them, 30 cases (519 complaints) were referred to the Broadcast Complaints Committee (“BCC”) under the CA for consideration before submission to the CA for deliberation and determination. Details of the complaint cases considered by the CA are published on the CA’s website. Under powers delegated by the CA, the Director-General of Communications handled the remaining 1 826 cases (16 559 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 (i.e. the substance of the complaints did not involve a contravention of the relevant legislation, licence conditions or codes of practice).
Applications for Domestic Free Television Programme Services Licences
Up to March 2017, the CA received three applications for free TV licences – from HKTV in April 2014, Forever Top in April 2015 and Phoenix HK in May 2016. In January 2016, the CA submitted to the CE in C its assessment of and recommendations on HKTV’s free TV licence application. In September 2016, the CE in C agreed with the CA’s recommendations and decided to give HKTV more time to submit the information required under the BO, and invited the CA, on receipt of the required information from HKTV, to submit further recommendations to the CE in C on HKTV’s application. Following the CE in C’s decision, the CA reminded HKTV in September 2016 to submit the required information to the CA as soon as practicable. In response, HKTV submitted some supplementary information to the CA in November 2016. Having examined the relevant information, the CA requested HKTV in December 2016 to submit the remaining required information as soon as practicable for examination by the CA. As at the end of March 2017, the CA was awaiting the relevant information from HKTV.
Since April 2017, the application of Forever Top has been put on hold at the applicant’s request. Upon the CA’s approval in September 2017, Forever Top became the major shareholder of i-CABLE Communications Limited. Forever Top withdrew its free TV licence application thereafter.
As for the free TV licence application of Phoenix HK, the applicant informed the CA in August 2017 that it had decided to withdraw the application due to commercial considerations.
Applications for Renewal of a Domestic Pay Television Programme Service Licence
We assisted the CA in preparing and submitting to the CE in C its recommendations on the renewal of the pay TV licence of HKCTV in April 2016. Having conducted a comprehensive review of HKCTV’s past performance, and taking into account the views of the public, the CA recommended that the pay TV licence of HKCTV should be renewed for a term of 12 years from 1 June 2017 to 31 May 2029. The CE in C decided on 13 December 2016 to renew the licence of HKCTV.
Applications for Renewal of Non-domestic and Other Licensable Television Programme Service Licence
During the period, we also assisted the CA in processing six applications for renewal of non-domestic and other licensable television programme service licences, which were approved by the CA. They are —
(a) application for the renewal of non-domestic television programme service licence from Auspicious Colour Limited; and
(b) applications for the renewal of other licensable television programme service licences from Hotel Holdings Limited, Cityability Limited, Fame Capital Investment Limited3, Cordis Hong Kong Limited and Showers of Blessing Evangelistic Ministry (Hong Kong) Limited, for the provision of television programme services in hotel rooms in Hong Kong.