Originally known as The Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company, Ltd, The Wharf Holdings Ltd was founded in 1886 and is used to run wharfage and dockside warehousing. Its operations now span property, hotels, transport and warehousing. It owns the iconic Star Ferry, two major flagship properties in the Harbour City and Times Square shopping centres in Hong Kong, i-CABLE, Cable TV, Wharf T&T, and Modern Terminals.
The vision thing
The Government's long-awaited decision to open up the pay television market will be welcomed by viewers. Although Hong Kong Cable TV, the existing cable supplier, views the loss of its monopoly with anguish, the Government has rightly turned a deaf ear to its complaints. The company, once known as Wharf Cable, has enjoyed years of protection not only from prospective cable providers but in the early years also from Cantonese broadcasts on satellite TV.
It might seem harsh to force Wharf to open its hugely expensive network to competitors before it has even completed the task of laying the cabling, and the company may well be right in claiming that it is unprecedented outside Hong Kong. However, the move is not so different from the treatment meted out to Hongkong Telecom. Provided the new operator is expected to pay a commercial rate for Cable's services, it could also help defray some of Wharf's initial investment.
Wharf may be the biggest loser, but it is not the only company facing new competition. One year from now, Hongkong Telecom will lose its monopoly on commercial satellite uplink services. This will permit TVB's Galaxy and Hutchvision, which is currently only permitted to uplink STAR TV and the services using its satellite platform, to offer their facilities to other broadcasters.
For all the talk of making Hong Kong a broadcasting hub, Singapore's liberal environment has been largely preferred. While the framework will not be complete until the Broadcasting Bill is introduced into Legco next year, yesterday's decisions are the first real attempt to redress the balance.