Lawmaker urges help for poor left behind by TV revolution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am

The dawning of the digital age in the evolution of television broadcasting will probably mark the end of traditional analogue sets by the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But those who cannot afford to buy the latest flatscreen sets, or the decoder that can convert digital signals back into analogue format, might be denied th opportunity to watch television.

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung is so worried about the impact on 700,000 poor households that he is urging the government to set aside extra resources to help these families.

'Many of them can't even afford a normal TV. They would have no choice. This could deprive them of their rights to get information, or news,' said Dr Cheung.

The government yesterday announced that by 2007, ATV and TVB will start broadcasting services in analogue and digital formats during the launch of high definition TV (HDTV). The first transmission station will be built in Tsz Wan Shan and cover most of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and some outlying islands like Cheung Chau. Five more stations will be built in 2008.

It is hoped that by 2008, digital networks could cover 75 per cent of the city, and by 2012 analogue broadcasting could be obsolete.

The chairman of the Legislative Council's information technology and broadcasting panel, Sin Chung-kai, hoped there would be more flexibility in phasing out the analogue format.

Deputy Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology (Communications and Technology) Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen said that if the consumer penetration by 2012 was not strong enough, the date for full digital broadcasts could be reassessed.

ATV is investing more than $400 million to provide four new standard definition (SD) digital channels. During prime time from 6pm to 11pm, programmes will be broadcasted in HD signals. At least 14 hours of HDTV shows will be aired each week. Its Home and World channels will be broadcasted in SD signals.

TVB will launch an HDTV channel, injecting $400 million in a new studio and broadcasting facilities.

TVB broadcasting general manager Cheong Shin-keong said the Beijing Olympics provided an incentive to launch the digital format.

ATV's programme and external affairs vice-president, Kwong Hoi-ying, said: 'In the past, the technology wasn't stable enough. Now the market is beginning to mature.'