Tech official points to unified regulator

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 12:00am

The government is considering following foreign counterparts in setting up a unified regulatory body to oversee telecommunications and broadcasting.

In a consultation paper on boosting information infrastructure, released yesterday, the government said it might change the regulatory framework to meet the challenges posed by the continued convergence of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries.

The Broadcasting Authority and the Telecommunications Authority are separate and operate under different legislative frameworks.

The Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, John Tsang Chun-wah, who met the information technology sector for the first time since taking over from Henry Tang Ying-yen, said yesterday: 'There is a merging trend on the technology front, and we are now calling for public opinion to see if a regulatory merger is [the] right way to go.'

In Britain, the government has merged the five regulatory bodies - the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Office of Telecommunications, the Radio Authority and the Radiocommunications Agency - into a new Office of Communications that will be fully operational by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Australian government in August issued a consultation paper on a proposal to merge the communications and broadcasting authorities.

The Hong Kong consultation paper says: 'We intend to strengthen our policies and regulatory framework by facilitating convergence, removing regulatory burdens and providing an enabling environment for industry to innovate and develop new services.'

Industry players welcomed the proposal, saying such a merger should have been done years ago.

'Just like the merger of the Education Department and the Education and Manpower Bureau, it would boost efficiency and communication between us and the government,' said Anthony Au, director of technology vendor Success Systems.

The government also plans to combine the Information Technology Services Department with the Communications and Technology Branch of the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau.

The consultation will end on December 10.