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Chapter 2 Sustaining the Development of the Broadcasting Industry

The Development of Digital Terrestrial Television Services

Domestic free television programme service licensees (“free TV licensees”) are responsible for constructing transmission networks or engaging other network service operators to deliver their free TV services throughout Hong Kong. Among the three free TV licensees, Television Broadcasts Limited (“TVB”) and HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (“HKTVE”) (which operates ViuTV) provide a total of seven digital terrestrial television (“DTT”) programme channels by using spectrum in the 470-806 MHz band1. DTT signals are mainly delivered by transmitting stations established on hilltops. Since the launch of DTT services in late 2007, a total of 29 transmitting stations have been constructed by phases. With OFCA’s support, TVB and HKTVE have continued their efforts to extend coverage of their DTT transmission network. Currently, the DTT transmission network has achieved an overall coverage of close to 100% of the population.

1 The other free TV licensee, Fantastic TV, uses a fixed network to deliver its free TV services.

Roll-out of New Domestic Free Television Programme Services

Fantastic Television Limited (“Fantastic TV”) started to provide its licensed free TV service by launching its Chinese channel on 14 May 2017, using the hybrid fibre coaxial network operated by Hong Kong Cable Television Limited (“HKCTV”) for transmission of programme signals. 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. Currently, Fantastic TV has a coverage of about 93% of the total number of households in Hong Kong.

Pursuant to its free TV licence, Fantastic TV was required to launch a 24-hour English channel by 30 May 2018. In April 2018, Fantastic TV applied to the CA for an extension of the deadline for launching its English channel by two months to 30 July 2018. Having considered the unique circumstances of this case, the CA granted a two-month grace period to enable Fantastic TV to roll out its English channel. Fantastic TV launched its English channel on 30 July 2018.

Review of Regulations Governing Indirect Advertising

We assist the CA in conducting regular reviews of the codes of practice to provide proper guidance to broadcasting licensees, and to ensure that the standards stipulated therein are in line with community expectations and ongoing development of the broadcasting industry.

In 2017/18, the CA conducted a review of the regulations governing indirect advertising, as well as advertisements for undertakers and associated services. The objective of the review was to provide a more conducive business environment to licensees on the one hand while protecting the interests of the viewers on the other.

Upon completion of the review, revisions to the relevant codes of practice were made to relax the regulations governing indirect advertising. With effect from 27 July 2018, indirect advertising is permitted in TV programmes except for news programmes, current affairs programmes, children’s programmes, educational programmes, religious service and other devotional programmes. Product placement (i.e. the type of indirect advertising where licensees receive payment or other valuable consideration for exposure or use of products/services within a programme) is allowed so long as the exposure or use of products/services within a programme is presented in a natural and unobtrusive manner having regard to the programme context and genre, and that there is no direct encouragement of purchase or use of the products/services. To protect the interests of viewers, licensees are required to clearly inform viewers of the inclusion of indirect advertising before a programme starts. The CA also lifted the prohibition on broadcast of advertisements for undertakers and associated services on TV and radio. The new rules also took effect on 27 July 2018.

Licence Administration

Application for Domestic Free Television Programme Services Licence

In April 2014, the CA received an application for free TV licence from Hong Kong Television Network Limited (“HKTV”). In January 2016, the CA submitted to the Chief Executive in Council (“CE in C”) its assessment of and recommendations on HKTV’s free TV licence application. In September 2016, CE in C agreed with the CA’s recommendations and decided to give HKTV more time to submit the information required under the Broadcasting Ordinance (“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, we assisted the CA in following up with HKTV on the required information. In March 2018, HKTV withdrew the application due to commercial considerations.

Application for Renewal of a Non-domestic Television Programme Service Licence

During the period, we also assisted the CA in processing an application for renewal of a non-domestic television programme service licence from Phoenix Satellite Television Company Limited, which was approved by the CA.

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 in the Broadcasting (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 391) (“B(MP)O”) and the broadcast complaint handling procedures of the CA.

In 2017/18, we handled 1 866 cases (involving 4 342 complaints)2, which represented a slight increase of 0.5% in the number of cases, and a significant decrease of 75% in the number of complaints processed3, as compared with the figures recorded in 2016/17 (1 856 cases, involving 17 078 complaints). Among them, 10 cases (754 complaints) were referred to the Broadcast Complaints Committee 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 its website. Under powers delegated by the CA, the Director-General of Communications handled the remaining 1 856 cases (involving 3 588 complaints). These complaints were related to breaches of a minor nature; 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 contravention of relevant legislation, licence conditions or provisions in the codes of practice).

2 To ensure operational efficiency, complaints with similar allegations against the same issue or broadcast material are handled together and counted as a single case.
3 The significant difference between the number of complaints processed in 2017/18 and in 2016/17 was mainly attributed to a complaint case against the provision of simplified Chinese subtitles and / or the use of Putonghua in some news programmes broadcast on the former J5 Channel of TVB, which gave rise to over 13 000 complaints in 2016/17.