No rules yet on the Internet
LAWS to regulate the Internet are unlikely in the coming year but there are plans to table the controversial Broadcasting Bill in February.
James So Yiu-cho, who retired as Secretary for Recreation and Culture last week cited a number of problems involved in controlling materials on the Internet.
Mr So said Bill of Rights implications, jurisdiction problems and difficulties with evidence and enforcement complicated the task.
A branch official said they were still looking at overseas developments. The US is the only country which regulates the Internet.
The Broadcasting Bill was to be discussed in the Executive Council in January and tabled to the Legislative Council in February if Chinese agreement was forthcoming.
Deputy Secretary for Recreation and Culture Fred Ting Fook-cheung earlier said the bill had been shelved because it was likely to incur Chinese wrath, which was subsequently denied.
The bill seeks to update and combine legislation for Hong Kong's regulatory framework for television and sound broadcasting services.
The branch believed the subject to be highly controversial as it would touch on cross-media ownership or regulation of video-on-demand services.
Equally controversial, the branch said, would be the Television (Amendment) Bill, which would give effect to the results of the policy review on the pay-TV market deregulation. It was scheduled to be tabled in May. Wharf Cable's exclusivity expires in June.
According to the Government's internal assessment, the two free-to-air broadcasters would use the opportunity to complain about further loss of revenue brought by the increased number of players.
Parties would focus on foreign ownership and cross-media ownership restriction.
The branch was also planning to table amendments to regulate video-on-demand.
Assistant Secretary for Recreation and Culture Wu Kam-yin said they aimed at establishing the legislative framework before Hongkong Telecom started the service on a commercial basis in June.
The Recreation and Culture branch had drawn up a set of proposals on how to regulate video-on-demand.
He said the proposed rules would be looser than those imposed on terrestrial stations but stricter than those for satellite television.
It would be neutral on technology to prevent the laws being made obsolete quickly.
The branch will also move amendments to the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles to require the Obscene Articles Tribunal to take into consideration artistic, literary or scientific values.