The House News
11th March, 2014
Gov Stops HKTV’s Operation Again – HKTV’s Ricky Wong: We have No Way Out
Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) notified Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) this afternoon that the existing license HKTV holds limits its transmissions to reach an audience of no more than 5,000 premises, and if it reaches over 5,000 premises, HKTV is required to apply for a free-to-air or pay-tv license. Ricky Wong Wai-kei, Chairman of HKTV, criticised the government for “moving the goalposts”: the government previously stated in various occasions that Broadcasting Ordinance does not apply to mobile TV services, when China Mobile’s subsidiary (China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation Ltd) operates under a mobile TV license the government did not react to its boardcasting services, but after HKTV acquired its license via legal means, the government decided that HKTV’s operation breaches the regulation. “They originally said that our license is not under the restriction (5,000 premises) and now they have changed their rules. Why is Hong Kong’s regulations and policies differ from person to person, from company to company? … This is not a fair play!” Wong further described the government’s behaviours as “brutal and laughable”.
“We have seven hilltop transmission stations. How could (the mobile TV license) require us to be able to broadcast to at least 50% of the population in Hong Kong, but on the other hand says it is illegal to reach over 5,000 premises? This is a big joke! … When the first operator (China Mobile) obtained this license, this regulation did not apply to the operator. Only after we bought the license in December last year, HKTV is being targeted (to be regulated)… There is nothing more unreasonable!”
HKTV issued a statement this afternoon announcing that the launch which was scheduled in July will be postponed. The company will suspend production of all new programmes because OFCA warns that if HKTV’s transmission stations reach over 5,000 premises it would violate the Broadcasting Ordinance. At HKTV’s press conference this afternoon, the company explained the announcement in detail.
At the press conference, Ricky Wong criticised the HKSAR government, “the government disregards all policies and laws, which forces an ordinary businessman to file a judicial review.” He said that he will be seeking help from the court of law. Wong stressed that he has confidence in Hong Kong’s justice system, and said that since the government does not abide the law, “HKTV has to bring things to the courts time after time. It is a war of attrition! The government versus a private company is not exactly a fair battle (in terms of financial capability).”
When asked if HKTV would acquire ATV’s (free to air) license, which expires in November 2015, Wong said, “I cannot see that the government would… we cannot be sure that the license will be renewed. We are in a state of fear.”
“I do not know if (HKTV) could ever launch its service.”
Last October, when Commerce and Economic Development Bureau announced that HKTV is not granted a free-to-air license, Wong asked, “which is comes first? Policy, law or Chief Executive?” At this afternoon’s press conference, Wong was asked if he had found the answer to this question, “I do not know how to answer this question because Hong Kong today is not the same Hong Kong that I know and have been living in.”
Wong admitted that there is “no way out” for him. When asked if he has anything to say to the people that support him and HKTV, Wong said, “I have nothing to say to them. My team and I have done everything we could which led us to where we stand. However, we can no longer carry on (our journey). I am really sorry.”
Wong explained that HKTV has repeatedly sent letters to OFCA which system is allowed. At the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (which was changed to OFCA) meeting, it was mentioned that DVB system (the European system) is allowed, but the Authority refused to mark their words and put it in black and white, “with a mobile TV license, which system am I allowed to use to broadcast? The authority has always claimed that it is their policy to remain ‘technologically neutral’, but now they cannot explain to me what policy is being adapted… Explain to me which system can I use, please! They refused to explain and then now they say it is illegal for HKTV to broadcast.”
When asked about the OFCA’s notice (mobile TV license only allows an operator to broadcast to no more than 5,000 premises or the operator will be subject to Broadcasting Ordinance and have to apply for a free-to-air license), Wong said that it is complete nonsense, “when the regulations (on mobile TV license) were drafted, it was clear that (mobile TV operation) is not subject to Broadcasting Ordinance (reference: screen grab from Communications and Technology Branch, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau’s website at the bottom of this post). This decoder box can be plugged into anyone’s television or directly into the aerial port. The government only started to says this is illegal after I, Ricky Wong, began to use this in the business. Why is something legal one day and suddenly become illegal when after I bought it?”
Wong also stressed that HKTV will continue its online business, unless “the government moves the goalposts again and ban us from operating online as well!” He hopes that HKTV staff can continue to work with the channel and develop in a new space. He also said that HKTV has no lay off plan.
When asked about the investment in the Tseung Kwan O broadcasting tower and HKTV’s hiring, Wong said that because the incident came out without any warning, the management has yet to begin any discussion. However, he thinks that it is irresponsible to hire new staff at this moment, and the company will not recruit any more staff until a clear direction is identified.
Wong also said that many overseas buyers have been requesting to purchase HKTV’s productions, as they can see HKTV’s productions are “many times better than programmes produced by existing TV channels in Hong Kong”. Wong believes that there is always demand for Cantonese TV programmes wherever there are ethnic Chinese.
HKTV’s handout distributed at today’s press conference:
<HKTV’s Five Questions for HKSAR Government>
1. The government claims in its latest notice that DTMB system could violate Broadcasting Ordinance. However, when City Telecom (which sold the telecom operation and rebranded as HKTV to focus on the broadcasting business) applied to compete for the free-to-air license four years ago, it filed the application with DTMB system as well, and the application to compete was granted. This means that DTMB was legal, and when did it become illegal?
2. What technology can mobile TV operators use to broadcast? On what legal ground? Does “technologically neutral” remain as one of OFCA’s principles/policies?
3. The government claims that any operator broadcasting to over 5,000 premises, it will be subject to Broadcasting Ordinance’s regulation and have to apply for a free-to-air license. However, with the government’s assistance, China Mobile built a number of transmission stations that reach 90% of Hong Kong’s population without applying for a free-to-air license. What are the reasons for the change of policy?
4. Mobile TV ordinance requires each operator to cover at least 50% of Hong Kong residents, but at the same time, according to the latest notice from OFCA, a mobile TV operator is limited to transmit its signal to no more than 5,000 premises. Why are these two contradict each other?
5. In 2010, multiple government documents clearly stated that Broadcasting Ordinance does not apply to mobile TV license holders. Why are all these “limitations” become effective after HKTV purchased a mobile TV license?