TVB urges loosening of rules

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am

Broadcaster says paving way for digital rivals demands commercial flexibility

Television Broadcasts (TVB), Hong Kong's largest television broadcaster, has urged the government to relax restrictions on its free-to-air operations following the launch of a digital service by the end of next year, as it expects more competition in the market.

TVB said that the government should revise the broadcasting ordinance immediately to facilitate the launch of digital terrestrial television services next year.

The government proposed a revision to the regulations after the establishment of a new regulatory body, the Communications Authority, next year.

'The digitisation means there will be more free-to-air channels to compete in the market due to the increase in supply of spectrum. We are required by the government to open the infrastructure for our competitors,' said Cheong Shin-keong, the broadcaster's general manager.

'We are paving the way for our competitors to enter the market, and we expect no return on investment on digital services in the first several years of operation,' Mr Cheong said. 'We need a more relaxed environment for business.'

TVB will spend $300 million on the construction of digital compatible transmission infrastructure, which will be opened to its rivals after commercial operations begin.

TVB and rival Asia Television will launch digital free-to-air television services no later than the end of next year. They have committed at least $400 million each to making new content such as high-definition television programmes and new channels.

Mr Cheong said that the government should consider relaxing the limitations on the arrangement of advertising time slots, the operation of English-language channels and the types of programmes the broadcaster must carry so that the company would have more flexibility in the way it generated advertising revenue.

TVB also said the new regulatory framework should bridge the gap with less regulated pay-television services.

'We want to have more business models as free-to-air TV is not a comfortable business,' Mr Cheong said.