'No big problem' with HKTV's mobile deal

Ricky Wong's move into mobile television does not raise competition concerns, sources say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 8:18am

Hong Kong Television Network's HK$142 million acquisition of a mobile television service from China Mobile will not reduce competition and the Communications Authority is unlikely to block it, sources say.

The authority, which is the regulator, has until tomorrow to decide whether further investigation of the sale, announced last month, is needed. It was yesterday still awaiting final feedback from authority members, but a government source said: "There is no big problem with the deal".

HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay announced the surprise purchase of China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation, and with it a share of the mobile television spectrum, last month. Wong made the move after HKTV's bid for a free-to-air television licence was snubbed in October and he intends to use it to broadcast programmes already made by HKTV for its planned free-to-air station.

Because mobile television is governed by telecom regulations rather than the Broadcasting Ordinance, the impact on the television market will not be a factor in the authority's decision.

"We should not confuse the telecom market with the broadcasting one," the source said, although "of course, television stations can still submit their views".

The source said that due to the limited spectrum available for mobile television, HKTV could offer only one high-definition channel or several in lower definitions on mobile. Wong had planned to offer five channels via mobile and online services.

Broadcaster TVB had opposed giving free-to-air licences to HKTV and successful bidders i-Cable and PCCW. It said it was studying the possible effects of mobile television.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said the rise of mobile television made it harder to control what people watched. He called for a review of regulations.

"The airwaves or the internet are just carriers, while content is king. Why is there uneven regulation for the two?" he said.