Lacking in frequency

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 September, 2003, 12:00am

What is AM radio? Most of us might not know what it is since we seldom tune into an AM station. However, being on an AM or FM frequency could well make or break a radio channel, especially if it is in English, according to a local broadcaster.

Michael Vincent, programme director of Metro Plus (AM 1044), said the success of an English-language channel hinged on whether it was being carried on an FM frequency.

'Now it's mainly the ethnic minorities who are willing to go beyond FM,' he said. 'Once we broadcast on FM, we can start from where we are and go on to attract people who use English as a second language.'

His comments came after a fellow English radio channel - HMV864 - was taken off the air by Commercial Radio last Thursday. At the moment, Metro Plus' accumulative listernship ranges from 80,000 to 100,000 per week.

However, Hong Kong's airwaves are already packed with, and dominated by, Chinese channels. To solve this problem, Vincent said that there had been discussion between the government and radio stations on the bandwidth issue: 'I cannot divulge what has been said ... but digitisation has become the centre of debate for a while. No one knows how soon it can come true.'

Digital technology, which has already been adopted in many European countries including the United Kingdom, could open up more channels - be they television or radio - but a decoder is needed to receive the signals.

'We could [do with] more than three English channels because multicultural communities are emerging in this city,' he said.

'We are already targetting pockets of communities like ethnic minorities. There are also a lot of mainland people who like to hear purely English channels.'

With a potentially large market for English radio in the future, Vincent believed the government would have to let the market dictate the number of channels we should have and in what language.

But according to a Broadcasting Authority spokesperson, the government has decided to keep the English channel requirement after collecting views from the public and industry. He said that none of the views collected expressed the need for English to be broadcast on FM.