Battle for free Olympic TV reaches final hurdle
Cable TV is pressing the government to urgently approve its application for a free-to-air licence, or risk denying sports fans in the city live coverage of the London Olympic Games this summer.
The Olympics were aired by terrestrial broadcasters TVB and ATV, but the pay television operator won the Games' sole broadcasting rights for Hong Kong five years ago.
Director and chief financial officer William Kwan Jut-ho said non-subscribers could still see the Games if the broadcaster secured approval to start a free-to-air channel soon.
'We are ready to broadcast the London Games on our proposed domestic terrestrial free television channel,' Kwan said yesterday at a ceremony marking the 200-day countdown to the Games.
'All we need is the green light from the government and we now look forward to a decision not later than this month as we still need production lead time.'
Fantastic TV, a subsidiary of i-Cable Communications, said it would spend about HK$1 billion in capital and operating expenditure if the licence was approved.
The broadcaster submitted its application for a domestic licence in January 2010. A spokesman for the company said it learned that the Broadcasting Authority had studied the proposal and forwarded it to the government's Executive Council for discussion in May last year.
'There has been no progress on the matter since last year and we don't know why it has taken so long,' the spokesman said. 'But once we get the licence, hopefully by the end of this month, we can go ahead with our plan to broadcast the London Games on free television.'
He warned that it would not share content with TVB or ATV as this was not 'part of our broadcasting plan'. i-Cable will set up four dedicated channels during the Games' period, including a soccer channel to cover most of the matches live.
Two of the channels will run 24 hours, featuring the most important live events of the day.
'Local sports fans have great interest in soccer and that's why we will have a separate channel just for soccer, so that they won't miss any important games,' said Isabelle Tsang Kwan-fung, vice-president of i-Cable Sports.
'We aim to provide fans with the most comprehensive and professional coverage ever seen in Hong Kong. Both the traditionally high interest events and other less popular sports will be covered.'
The hosts will be represented by a Great Britain soccer team at the Games, which will feature players from the four Football Associations - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - and is expected to be a big attraction for fans.
Also, two channels will carry direct satellite feeds from London with English commentary.