Free-TV Olympics coverage certain, says sports chief
Cheung Chi-fai, Lily Zhang, Keith Zhai and Danny Mok
Hongkongers will definitely get to watch free-to-air live coverage of the London Olympic Games, despite the wrangling among local broadcasters, the city's sports chief pledged yesterday.
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, said: 'They [the International Olympic Committee] have told me I can convey this message. There will be free-to-air television broadcast of the Games. And [the arrangement] will be made public as soon as within one or two days.'
Fok did not reveal further details about his meeting with IOC representatives, or say what broadcasting arrangements would be put in place.
Rights holder iCable said last night that one major obstacle to showing the Games on free-to-air broadcaster ATV's World channel had been resolved.
iCable said the IOC had overcome potential difficulties and the Games would now feature on ATV, which is available to households in the Pearl River Delta area. It gave no details about how the difficulties had been resolved.
ATV, which confirmed that it had been in talks with the IOC, was unaware of any deal and said that the problem with cross-border rights was not the only obstacle.
A company spokesman said 'our door remains open' for further talks and that 'ATV was optimistic the problem will be resolved'.
Fellow free-to-air broadcaster TVB has also been in talks with the IOC. 'We are still in the process of negotiation,' said Winnie Ho Wai-sheung, TVB's senior manager of corporate and community relations.
It remains uncertain what sort of restrictions would be imposed on the two broadcasters and what fee they would be charged for acquiring the Games rights.
An IOC spokesman said yesterday that it would make public any news updates regarding the issue.
Fok's comment came hours after TVB and ATV claimed they had halted talks about subletting Games broadcasts with iCable, which outbid rivals to secure the right to show the Games on all media platforms in Hong Kong.
TVB said iCable's subletting terms - including reserving nearly all the commercial air time for the cable television company's own sponsors - were too harsh for it to accept.
The IOC requires iCable to provide at least 200 hours of free Games broadcasts, which puts huge pressure on the Wharf Group-controlled broadcaster to strike a deal with ATV or TVB.
iCable had hoped ATV could broadcast the Games if it could sort out copyright issues in the Pearl River Delta, where mainland broadcaster CCTV holds rights for the Games.
ATV broadcasts widely across the border and has an advertising revenue sharing arrangement with the mainland.
A spokeswoman for CCTV's sports channel said it was not familiar with the case. But another source at the channel said copyright for Games broadcasts would not be an issue for CCTV in the Pearl River Delta.
The estimated global TV audience expected to watch the London Olympics opening ceremony on July 27