HKTV's Ricky Wong fears technology 'trap' could land him in jail

Communications watchdog alarms tycoon by saying mobile TV station faces legal risks no matter what transmission standard it adopts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 12:45pm

Hong Kong Television Network is bound to face legal uncertainties no matter what transmission standard it adopts - but that is a risk the operator should bear, the broadcasting and telecom watchdog said yesterday.

"Is this a trap?" responded HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, rebutting the contention of the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA). "If I fall into this trap I will go to jail."

The exchange came as OFCA refused to give Wong an assurance his station would be able to stick to one transmission standard for 10 years without having to worry about breaking the law.

"We cannot predict what will happen in 10 years' time," deputy director-general of telecommunications Danny Lau Kwong-cheung said.

Wong, who has pledged to seek a judicial review of OFCA's requirement that he get a licence for his planned mobile television service if he uses his preferred format, said the legal battle would begin in one or two weeks if there was no progress.

OFCA earlier recommended that HKTV adopt the China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) standard, suitable only for use on mobile phones, or the European DVB-H standard.

It rejected HKTV's proposal to use the Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) standard - used by free stations TVB and ATV. When more than 5,000 households can receive HKTV's service via antennae on their buildings, the station would require a free-to-air or pay-television licence on top of the mobile television licence it bought last year, the watchdog said.

Wong turned to mobile TV after his application for a free-to-air licence was rejected last year.

If the DTMB standard was adopted, more than two million households with sets or set-top boxes that can decode DTMB would be able to watch HKTV. If HKTV chose the DVB-H standard, it would not need another TV licence for the time being, the authority said. That is because no sets on the market can decode such transmissions. But if sets able to decode DVB-H became popular the authority would have to act against HKTV, Lau said.

Wong said this left HKTV in jeopardy no matter what it did.

"Following OFCA's logic, no matter what transmission standard HKTV adopts, if our mobile TV service becomes a success and future TV sets install a receiver to receive HKTV's signal, HKTV will still breach the Broadcasting Ordinance."

Keith Li King-wah, a council member of the Hong Kong Wireless Technology Industry Association, said OFCA was being unreasonable in banning HKTV from using DTMB, China's national standard, and asking it to use the two other, outdated standards. "It's like the iPhone is available, but your dad only allows you to use a Nokia from 10 years ago," Li said. "Mobile TV is not subject to the Broadcasting Ordinance but the government keeps changing its stance to target Wong."

Wong said the government in the past had "followed the rules" and allowed him to develop his international telecommunications and internet businesses. But now OFCA was defying the rules by forcing him to get a free or pay-television licence to run the mobile service, he said.

Watch: HKTV supporters gather at Hong Kong government to protest against failed licence bid in November