Wharf hits out over TV service
WHARF Cable has warned that unlicensed video-on-demand is unfair to television providers and will undermine the territory's regulatory standards Benny Chan, a senior manager, yesterday called on the Government to maintain equality by ensuring that standards were based on programme content and not the method of delivery.
Mr Chan, who was speaking at a Rotary Club meeting, said: ''We are not being anti-competitive. If a programme provider offers movies, entertainment and much else besides on your television screen and charges you for it, he is providing pay-television.
''Pay-television providers should go through a due licensing process before they come on air. That is established practice.'' The comments were directed at the Government's present consideration of regulatory standards and Hongkong Telecom's plans to provide a video-on-demand (VOD) service.
Last month the telecommunications giant announced it was spending about $64 million on trials of the service which it intends to have available by the final quarter of next year.
The service allows subscribers to select movies from a menu displayed on their television sets and then use a remote-control handset to pick, order and download the videos over the telephone line.
Over the next 13 months there will be a two-phased trial period starting with a limited service to about 50 homes.
Wharf Cable, which has a monopoly on pay-television services until June 1996, has told the Government the service should be governed by the Broadcasting Ordinance.
The Government's communications watchdog, the Recreation and Culture Branch, is considering what, if any, regulations will apply.
At present, operators could theoretically buy off-the-shelf video servers, lease band-width on the telephone network from Hongkong Telecom and start their services with no control.
Mr Chan dismissed suggestions that VOD is simply a sophisticated video shop service.
''You would be talking about a so-called shop that would potentially reach six million people directly in their homes,'' Mr Chan said.
''There is humour in a situation where a 100-year old monopolistic giant is pretending to be your neighbourhood video shop, but I trust that the Government is too well-organised and intelligent to condone or participate in this masquerade,'' he said.