Fewer 'family' hours devoted to racing
Chris Mercer expressed misgivings about ATV World's continued coverage of Macau racing (South China Morning Post, August 6).
The Broadcasting Authority shares his concern about the excessive amount of horse racing currently shown by ATV on its English- and Chinese-language channels. Under current regulations licensees are free to decide on their programme content and line-up, unless there are express provisions in the law or licence conditions requiring them to seek prior approval, for example, intrusion into family viewing hours (that is, from 4pm to 8.30pm). The authority tries to strike a balance between protecting viewers' interests and respecting licensees' programming independence. Regarding horse racing, the authority has tried to limit the intrusion of such programmes into family viewing hours.
During these hours, there are stringent restrictions on showing programmes unsuitable for children.
To ensure any intrusion was kept to a minimum, the authority issued a directive to both domestic free licensees in 1999 that there should be a gradual reduction in the amount of horse racing shown during family viewing hours. This gradual approach was considered appropriate because of the different interests of Hong Kong viewers.
Since this directive was issued the amount of family viewing hours used to broadcast horse racing programmes has been reduced from an all-time high of 219 hours in 1998-1999, to 157.7 hours in 2001-2002.
It is envisaged that a further substantial reduction will be made in the forthcoming racing season.
In April, the Broadcasting Authority had a public hearing on the performance of the two domestic free television programme service licensees, in connection with their application for a licence renewal.
Members of the public expressed concern over the extensive coverage of horse racing on ATV.
The authority will certainly take such views into account when deciding on future applications from the licensees.
Licensed broadcasters are required by the terms of their licence to ensure programming is balanced and to provide an adequate and comprehensive service which is responsive to the diverse needs of the community.
The authority will continue to ensure that a sensible balance is struck between various viewing interests.