Video controls planned
THE Government is set to reveal its proposals on how to regulate video-on-demand (VOD) either late next month or early March, said Secretary for Recreation and Culture Brian Chau Tak-hay.
Mr Chau said he hoped amendments to the Television Ordinance would be put to the legislature before the end of this legislative session, although he admitted the amendments would take time to assess.
'VOD has not been introduced on a commercial scale anywhere else in the world so there is little experience to draw on,' he said.
Hongkong Telecom plans to start running VOD on a commercial basis in the summer. Wharf Cable, which holds a three-year exclusive licence on pay TV, is seeking a judicial review on the Government decision to allow Hongkong Telecom to go ahead with VOD.
Mr Chau refused to provide details on how the administration would regulate VOD. But he said it was important for the Government to satisfy concerns that the content should be properly regulated.
He said the department would inform China of any new developments and consult it if it involved issuing of licences that would straddle the handover.
A senior government source said the administration remained undecided on whether operators of VOD should be issued a separate licence.
Another source said the regulation over contents of the VOD should be similar to those governing pay TV.
On the deregulation of the pay-TV market, Mr Chau said the Government had completed a fact-finding exercise among all broadcasters and was studying the results.
They would consult the Executive Council on proposals which would be published in March or April.
Mr Chau said the branch would also reply to the Consumer Council's report on broadcasting in six months.
The council published its report last Saturday. It suggested a number of changes including a new policy secretary to handle broadcasting, telecommunications and communications technology.
He admitted the distinction between broadcasting and telecommunications was getting blurred but he stressed the two branches co-operated satisfactorily.
Telecommunications are handled by the Economic Services Branch.