Following the switching off of analogue television services on 30 November 2020, OFCA worked closely with television broadcasters, including Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), HK Television Entertainment Company Limited (HKTVE), Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and other relevant stakeholders to migrate six DTT programme channels to new transmitting frequencies in the 500 MHz band (Channel Migration), with a view to releasing spectrum in the 600/700 MHz bands for the provision of high value-added mobile telecommunications services. These six television programme channels were Jade 81 of TVB, ViuTVsix 96 and ViuTV 99 of HKTVE, and RTHK TV 31, RTHK TV 32 and RTHK TV 33 of RTHK.
During the transitional period from 1 April to 30 November 2021, these six television programme channels were transmitted on both the existing and new frequencies. This arrangement allowed sufficient time for the public and related industry stakeholders to carry out reconfiguration work for the common antenna broadcast distribution (CABD) systems in buildings to enable the continued reception of the six television programme channels.
In the course of the Channel Migration, OFCA launched a series of publicity programmes, including issuing circular letters to building management offices, incorporated owners of buildings and other parties maintaining/operating CABD systems; putting up posters and distributing flyers to residents of public and private housing estates; as well as launching TV and radio announcements in the public interest (APIs) in order to enhance public understanding of the Channel Migration and the necessary preparatory work.
By end-November 2021, the reconfiguration work for the vast majority of households in multi-storey buildings with CABD systems was completed, enabling the residents to continue receiving the six television programme channels. On the other hand, households using self-provided antennae, including those living in village houses, bungalows and old tenement buildings, would only need to perform channel rescanning on their digital TV receivers if they could not receive any of the six television programme channels after 1 December 2021.
With the concerted effort of the stakeholders, the Channel Migration was successfully completed on 1 December 2021. The vacated spectrum in the 600/700 MHz bands has been assigned/reserved for the provision of public mobile telecommunications services, including 5G services.
With OFCA’s support, the CA embarked on the mid-term review of the free television licences of HKTVE, TVB and Fantastic TV and the sound broadcasting licences of Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Company Limited and Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited to examine their performance during the first six years of their respective licences, including the licensees’ compliance with the statutory requirements, licence conditions and codes of practice as well as their investment commitments in the past six years and the coming six years. To gauge public views, the CA conducted a public consultation exercise in the second half of 2021, including public opinion survey1, online consultation session2 and focus group discussion3. The CA received 460 submissions from members of the public. The issues raised in the consultation exercise touched upon programme variety, local productions, subtitling, sign language and other aspects of the licensees’ performance. In the face of a more challenging business environment and the intensifying competition from the Internet-based media, there were calls from the licensees for adjusting programme requirements for sustainable development of the industry. Based on the assessment results of the licensees’ performance and the views of the public and the industry, the CA will make recommendations regarding licence conditions and service requirements for the remaining period of the licences to the Chief Executive in Council.
In February 2022, we assisted the CA in granting a formal approval for Fantastic TV’s application to use spectrum, on top of fixed network, for transmission of its free television service. This approval was given following Fantastic TV had satisfied all the requirements set out in the CA’s approval-in-principle that was issued to Fantastic TV in April 2021.
The CA noted that assigning spectrum to Fantastic TV for transmission of its free television service would enable Fantastic TV to increase its service coverage and ultimately provide additional programme choices to more households. Starting from 1 April 2022, the spectrum-based service covered 75% of the Hong Kong population. Fantastic TV will expand its service coverage4 and target to launch a new television programme channel by 24 November 2022.
In 2021/22, OFCA processed two applications for renewal of other licensable television programme service licences for the provision of television programme services in hotel rooms in Hong Kong. All of them were approved by the CA.
The CA does not pre-censor broadcast content. Instead, it adopts a complaint-driven approach to ensure that broadcast content complies with prevailing legislation, licence conditions and the codes of practice that it has issued. As the executive arm of the CA, OFCA assists the CA in handling complaints about broadcast materials in accordance with the provisions in the Broadcasting (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 391) (B(MP)O) and the broadcast complaint handling procedures of the CA.
In 2021/22, OFCA handled 1 552 cases (involving 8 575 complaints)5, which represented a reduction of 21% in the number of cases6, and a reduction of 57% in the number of complaints processed7, as compared with the figures recorded in 2020/21 (1 964 cases, involving 19 980 complaints). Among those cases handled, nine cases (involving 291 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. The Director-General of Communications handled the remaining 1 543 cases (involving 8 284 complaints) relating 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 contravention of relevant legislation, licence conditions or provisions in the codes of practice) with the power delegated by the CA.