ATV - Asia Television Limited

HK lagging behind in digital TV broadcasting, say hi-tech experts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am

Digital television broadcasting in Hong Kong has a long way to go to achieve its full potential, technology experts said a week after its launch last Monday.

'In Taiwan, people can watch real-time news programmes with digital television inside a taxi, but we are still talking about 50 per cent of digital signal coverage,' said Jacky Cheung Yiu-shing, president of the Chamber of Hong Kong Computer Industry.

Branded the next revolution in broadcasting, the new services cover only half of the city's population. It will be extended to cover a further 25 per cent by August, when five more transmission stations come into operation. Full coverage will not be available until 23 more transmission stations are built from 2009 to 2011.

'It is in fact a discrimination to those who live outside the coverage area. We all pay the same taxes to the government,' Mr Cheung said. 'If the two free-to-air broadcasters do not have enough resources to speed up the pace to improve the coverage, why can't the government invest public money?'

He added that coverage was the key to the popularity of digital broadcasting, which he believed could bring economic benefits of more than HK$30 billion.

Sales of flat-screen TVs, set-top boxes, digital recorders and the installation of antenna facilities were all business opportunities for the industry, Mr Cheung said.

'Hong Kong people love the newest technology. The market is going to boom and the price of the higher-tier products will go down within one to two years,' he said.

Alan Lee Pak-kuen, of the Asia HD Association, said the free-to-air broadcasters had few programmes with high-definition picture quality.

'ATV is broadcasting at the minimum requirement of two hours [of high-definition programmes] every day while TVB is putting more resources into producing high-definition dramas,' he said.

Mr Lee added that surround-sound was also not available in the locally produced high-definition programmes.

'Overseas imported TV series such as Lost, CSI or 24 have better sound effects but it is too costly for the two free-to-air broadcasters' to produce programmes with surround-sound, he said.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority said it had received 775 inquiries in the first five days of digital broadcasting, most concerning signal coverage and the applications of set-top boxes.

There were 72 complaints about analogue services being affected since the launch of digital signals.

The regulator added that it had examined 25 set-top box models. Sixteen models - all higher-tier products - had passed and nine had failed.