Ricky Wong shows how to pick up ATV and TVB on the go

HKTV chief Ricky Wong shows that ATV and TVB signals can be picked up on portable TVs - but Ofca says pair are not breaching licences

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 3:59am

Handheld televisions can pick up stable and clear broadcasts from the city's two terrestrial stations even while in a vehicle going at 70km/h or out on Victoria Harbour, Ricky Wong Wai-kay demonstrated yesterday.

But as the Hong Kong Television Network boss showed that TVB and ATV signals were available on the go, the Office of the Communications Authority (Ofca) reiterated that the pair were not in breach of their licences, which allow them to broadcast only between fixed antennas.

At stake is the question of whether HKTV should be allowed to make broadcasts under its mobile television licence that can also be picked up on household televisions, even though it lacks a free-to-air television licence. Ofca says no, but Wong argues the fact it will not act on TVB and ATV's "mobile" broadcasts shows double standards and harms his interests as a mobile television licensee.

"This has hit our limit. I only want to prove one thing, that neither TVB nor us can block the signals from being received by a certain type of receiver," Wong said as he demonstrated the signals. "Ofca moved the goalposts."

Wong used a portable television with a V-shaped antenna to pick up programmes on a bus trip at speeds of up to 70km/h from Kowloon Tong to Tsim Sha Tsui. Programmes were clear, with a few interruptions. Wong also took journalists by boat to the harbour off Hung Hom, where he also picked up broadcasts. Post reporters tested a portable set the day before with less success.

"If this is not mobile TV, then what is mobile TV? If TVB had no intention to offer mobile TV service, then why do they accuse me of having the intention of offering a free TV service?" Wong said.

HKTV paid HK$142 million for the unified carrier licence held by China Mobile. The licence, under the Telecommunications Ordinance, allows HKTV to broadcast programmes for mobile devices. TVB, ATV and the city's pay-television companies hold fixed carrier licences under the same law, which allow them to broadcast only to fixed antennas.

Wong planned to use the licence to launch programmes using a technical standard called Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB), the same technology used by ATV and TVB. But Ofca told him HKTV would need a free-to-air licence under the separate Broadcasting Ordinance if his programmes were available on televisions in more than 5,000 homes.

HKTV was controversially denied such a licence last year.

"Why don't Ofca tell TVB and ATV to install filters so that mobile devices can't receive their signals? That's because technically it is impossible," Wong said. "I offered to install filters to block my signals [from antennas] but Ofca rejected me."

An Ofca spokesman said TVB and ATV did not breach the law as they "did not offer a [mobile] service" despite the availability of signals. He cited the fact the companies did not have any agreement with viewers using mobile devices.

The spokesman said HKTV could broadcast if it used a technical standard other than DTMB, which Wong says is not practical.

"It is Wong who keeps moving the goalposts," he added. But Wong said of the response: "It is no different from hanging me."

TVB executive chairman Norman Leung Nai-pang admitted TVB's broadcasts could be picked up on portable devices, but not everywhere. He said TVB did not want to get involved in the row, but that a mobile television licence should not offer a free-to-air television service.