HKTV row: Lawmakers poke at government vision on broadcasting laws

Legislators trade barbs with commerce chief Greg So on whether the laws are outdated

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 1:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:19am

Does the government have its "eyes wide shut" over television broadcasting laws?

That was the question posed to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung in a fiery Legislative Council debate yesterday as a lawmaker played on the title of late director Stanley Kubrick's last film.

Legislators suggested the government had erred in its assessment by not updating broadcasting laws when formulating policies for the development of mobile television.

So rejected the claims, saying the decision not to regulate on-the-go television services under the Broadcasting Ordinance was reached after a series of public consultations in 2007 and 2008.

"It was not a misjudgment," he told the Legco panel on information technology and broadcasting. "It was done with eyes open … There was a consensus [about not amending the law]."

He said the policy on mobile television adopted a technology-neutral principle. As long as the operator complied with legislation, it would not be restricted on the type of transmission to use.

Lawmakers disagreed, saying the latest rows revolving around Hong Kong Television Network stemmed from outdated laws.

"Eyes wide open? I would rather say Stanley Kubrick's movie title suits the government more - Eyes Wide Shut," Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said.

Charles Mok, representing the information technology sector, said it was unreasonable to judge if tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay's HKTV had breached any laws by looking at how advanced televisions on the market were.

The Communications Authority has explained Wong is free to use any transmission standard as long as fewer than 5,000 households can watch HKTV on televisions at home.

Mok was shocked when So remarked: "Charles works in the IT industry. But it seems he does not understand technology well."

The authority's chairman, Ambrose Ho Pui-him, said they were not discriminating against HKTV. Although TVB and ATV signals could be picked up outdoors, the stations would be seen as running mobile services only if they invited viewers to reach an agreement with them, he said.

Wong said viewers would never need to reach a deal with stations to watch free television.