Commercial stations put heads together on digital audio future

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am

The three commercial radio broadcasters in Hong Kong are exploring joint investment in the infrastructure for digital audio broadcasts in the city.

Also on the agenda as the three sit round the table, sources told Media Eye, was an attempt to present a common position on the future role of a public service broadcaster in Hong Kong.

The talks are being held by Commercial Radio, the city's oldest privately owned broadcaster; Metro Broadcast, the radio arm of Hutchison Whampoa; and the newly licensed Wave Media.

The government is reviewing its policy on public broadcasting as provided by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). One issue is that RTHK's programming targets the mass market and competes with private broadcasters.

'We want to see future programming from the public broadcaster limited to niche services, and not compete with private broadcasters,' the source told Media Eye.

The co-operation could extend to digital broadcasting. 'We would like to invest in the transmission infrastructure for digital radio services once the government issues the licences,' the source said.

Another source said the government would issue mobile television service licences next year and appeared to have 'a wait-and-see approach to digital audio broadcasting'.

Wave Media wants government to issue more audio spectrum, as the station will be limited to the lower quality AM frequency when services start next year.

'AM technology won't satisfy audience needs,' the source said.

Simon Heung, formerly the technical director of RTHK, handles the engineering at Wave Media.

Experience needed

Facing a potential challenger, Metro Broadcast has decided that gathering more multimedia production experience will enable it to compete with other video-based content providers.

'We want to migrate to digital audio broadcasting and have also looked into the coming mobile television licences. But the government's limited release of spectrum means it could be quite difficult to win a licence,' said Bianca Ma, Metro's managing director.

Ms Ma was speaking to Media Eye last week in Macau at the launch of Metro Finance Multimedia Channel.

'We can better equip ourselves with multimedia capability once the government issues digital broadcasting licences in the future,' she said.

Metro plans to boost coverage to 10 more cities over three years.

'We will also target markets such as Singapore and Malaysia, where there is strong demand for Hong Kong stock market information. The channel will also gradually switch to Putonghua for 70 per cent of air time in the future,' Ms Ma said.