New wave

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 November, 2011, 12:00am


This month, RTHK is launching five digital audio channels by relaying the programmes from four existing AM channels and an added channel of the China National Radio. The five new digital channels include two in Putonghua, two in English and one in Cantonese.

The public broadcaster has over 80 years of history, providing services to the community. The move to digital marks a new era of broadcasting development in Hong Kong, allowing the local radio broadcasting industry to flourish.

The era of digital audio broadcasting is unquestionably upon us. Following the launch of seven channels by Digital Broadcasting Corporation and now five by RTHK, the city has 12 digital audio channels, compared with seven FM channels.

In fact, our situation has become a bit of a laughing stock. With over seven million people, we have only seven FM channels, and yet we are supposed to have a vibrant market that provides some of the best information communications technology and services.

With rising and changing audience demand, we must move with the times. Opening up the airwaves to multiple broadcasters is unavoidable.

Responding to public and market demand, the government released the first band III frequency range for digital transmission channels with coverage throughout the whole of Hong Kong last year and invited applications for digital audio broadcasting services. This year, it granted licences to three commercial radio operators to provide digital sound broadcasting alongside RTHK. By next year, all will be providing digital audio services, with 18 channels.

Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan melting pot. Yet we have failed to cater to the specific broadcast needs of minority groups.

For years, they have had no voice in the community. It is embarrassing that our government doesn't have policies to cater to the interests of minority races and ethnic groups.

Eventually, we will have 18 new digital sound channels, which should be sufficient to broaden the existing landscape to offer diversity to listeners and provide more room for innovative programming.

Our public broadcaster has for years failed to produce programmes to cater for minority interests. Digital Broadcasting Corporation recently launched the Digital We channel, the first and only radio channel dedicated to serving ethnic minorities here, broadcasting in Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia and Nepali, among other languages.

The next big obstacle to overcome is for the government to resolve the technical problems to allow the transmission of radio broadcasting at all MTR stations and tunnels throughout its network.

Hong Kong people are highly adventurous and love new technology and innovation. If the government is willing to add incentives and provide assistance, digital sound broadcasting will without doubt prosper and flourish here. Then, the government could release another band to expand the broadcasting landscape and turn the sector into another pillar industry.

Political commentator Albert Cheng King-hon is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited.