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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:29am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 2:34am

Stone Age broadcasting laws in a digital world

Officials like commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung want us to think the granting of radio and television licences is purely a policy matter, not politics. Rules and procedures are in place to ensure fairness and to serve the public interest. Who is he kidding?

Allowing more or fewer stations by controlling the number of licences granted is inherently a political decision. Who gets to broadcast what content in which medium has political implications.

Our telecommuncation laws date back to the Stone Age and have proved inadequate in radio and television broadcasting. On Tuesday, the government lost its case against five pan-democrats who took part in a broadcast by the unlicensed Citizens' Radio back in 2008. Meanwhile, it is under mounting pressure to explain why it still can't make up its mind after almost three years on whether to grant more television licenses.

Lawmakers Wong Yuk-man, Emily Lau Wai-hing, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Chan Wai-yip, and former legislator Lee Wing-tat were originally fined HK$1,000 each for taking part in the unauthorised political broadcast.

Their show protested against the government delay in reviewing the Telecommunications Ordinance to allow more radio stations to operate. Indeed, the law has been rendered out of date by technology. It's arbitrary because the group could have broadcast using internet radio or other web-based equipment and it would have been completely legal.

Meanwhile, City Telecom boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay has become increasingly vocal in complaining about having waited 1,000 days for an official decision on whether to give him a television licence. Other applicants include subsidiaries of i-Cable and PCCW.

The government's stinginess in granting broadcasting licences is something inherited from the colonial era when it was taken for granted that the control of broadcasting meant the control of public opinion. But the IT revolution has changed all that.

Today, the government no longer has that control. Anyone can potentially reach a large audience with myriad services in a multimedia convergence between the internet, television and radio. This is the democratising reality our government must recognise. It needs to bring broadcasting laws into the 21st century.


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HK has many outdated laws other than this. How about the so called illegal structure or the max 27 ft height for village house that was set 100 years ago maybe at that time we have 1m say population and now we have 7 millions. Forgive my stats as i just use it as illustration. How do you like to suck in all polluted air in the balcony of causeway bay off the highway if you are not allowed to build an enclosure to protect yourself? How do you like to see 18 people sharing a 200 sq ft space of coffin home with only one batch room and paying $1300 to 1500 a month, ie the landlord is fetching 25k a month or yielding 120 per sq ft. Money on the table but government has no solution to change the law to either produce more space or to legalized this to attract investors to provide cheaper and better places for the poor...this is only a short list Alex...I can talk the whole day if you have time about how Stone Age we are in...
When in doubt, follow the money. Who is paying the legal fees for the five politico dwarfs?


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