Galaxy TV faces legal challenge by PCCW

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am

Fledgling pay-television operator Galaxy has come under indirect attack from PCCW, which is seeking a judicial review into the non-disclosure by the Broadcasting Authority (BA) of information about Galaxy's conversion from a satellite to a broadband service.

PCCW, which operates the Now broadband pay-television service, claims the authority got it wrong when it refused on the grounds of insufficient public interest to hand over documentation regarding Galaxy's successful application to distribute programming via Hutchison Global Communication's (HGC) broadband network.

The move opened up a potential market of up to one million households, compared with the 20,000 or so the operator had signed up for its satellite service. PCCW argued that such a massive increase in its potential market power warranted a public consultation.

'The BA has erred in law in determining that no public interest arises in the present case,' PCCW's writ, filed in the High Court yesterday, said. 'There are clear public interest factors in favour of the information relating to Galaxy's application being disclosed.'

In a letter dated April 29, the authority rejected the public interest argument, saying it considered Galaxy's application concerned a change of transmission means and not a variation of the licence and there was no need to consult the other licence holders or the public.

PCCW contended that this approach was wrong, because the sheer scale of changes the switch to a fixed-line operation would impose on Galaxy's business would warrant the authority treating it as a new licence.

Stuart Chiron, PCCW director of regulatory affairs, said he believed that if the court ruled in its favour, the authority would need to retrospectively reopen Galaxy's application.

PCCW had acquired another 17.22 per cent of Sunday Communications through its general offer as of yesterday, bringing its beneficial ownership in the mobile operator to 77.1 per cent, the two firms jointly announced through the stock exchange last night.

PCCW is extending until further notice yesterday's deadline for accepting the general offer at 65 cents per share.

It needs to acquire at least 90 per cent of Sunday to take it private.