Viewers want more non-English shows
Six out of 10 Hong Kong viewers want more non-English programmes to be screened on English-language TV channels, a joint survey commissioned by broadcasters TVB and ATV has found.
But academics warned that expatriates' interests would be compromised and Hong Kong's international image affected if viewers' demands were met.
Under the Broadcasting Ordinance, all prime-time shows on the two channels must be in English.
Outside this period, only 20 per cent of programmes may be in other languages.
The survey, aimed at gauging the public's views of free-to-air programmes, found that 61 per cent of 1,057 TV viewers questioned wanted more non-English programmes - including shows from the mainland, Taiwan and Japan - to be aired on English channels.
The door-to-door interviews were conducted in July and August by Asia Market Intelligence.
The survey showed that 75 per cent of respondents believed the two English channels - TVB Pearl and ATV World - should base their decision on whether to show more non-English programmes on what the viewers wanted.
Seventy-two per cent said it was unnecessary for the broadcasters to seek approval from the government to air non-English programmes during prime-time.
ATV's vice-president of programming, Vincent Lam Lap-sing, agreed, saying he hoped the Broadcasting Authority would lift a ban preventing non-English programmes being aired during prime-time hours.
Mr Lam said the station had presented the findings of the survey to government bodies and hoped they would take them into account when renewing their licences in November next year.
The requirement has been a topic of debate in recent years, as low ratings for English-language shows and resulting poor advertising income have prompted both broadcasters to push for change.
On average, TVB and ATV's English channels attract about 160,000 viewers a night, while their Cantonese channels are watched by audiences of up to two million.
To Yiu-ming, assistant professor of the Department of Journalism at Baptist University, said the main purpose of English channels was to cater for English-speaking communities in Hong Kong.
He said the television companies should do more research before making a decision.
'They should first find out the reasons why people need more non-English programmes on English channels,' he said. 'Is it because the existing Chinese channels' programmes do not satisfy them?'
Echoing his views, Kenneth Leung Wai-yin, associate professor of Chinese University's School of Journalism and Communication, warned that Hong Kong's image as an international city would be affected by the change. 'Visitors expect to see English programmes when they tune into an English-language channel,' he said.