Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So Kam-leung, said yesterday he had expressed the public's wish to watch the London Olympic Games for free with the management of i-Cable, ATV and TVB over the last two days.
With the games less than three weeks away, So said he was watching the stalled negotiations between ATV and i-Cable closely, after plans to broadcast the games on free-to-air station ATV's English-language channel ATV World stalled.
The minister, who was attending an event in Tuen Mun, said he had met the management of the three stations to try to break the deadlock and 'make public interest a priority'.
Pay-TV station i-Cable, which secured the rights to broadcast the games, released a statement yesterday saying the negotiations are up in the air because ATV broadcasts widely in the Pearl Delta region, and may infringe the mainland stations' exclusive rights to show the games. The statement said Cable TV has 'offered assistance to ATV and asked the International Olympic Committee to help negotiate with mainland broadcasters for an arrangement'.
A spokesman for ATV said the negotiations were temporarily on hold. 'When i-Cable promised the IOC to have free broadcasts of the games, they should already have been aware of this large hurdle,' he said.
i-Cable also said it would assist ATV if it was concerned about the threat of legal action from TVB, the city's only other free-to-air station, if it broadcasts the games.
The two free-to-air stations have an agreement that if one channel broadcasts a major programme such as the Olympics or the World Cup, then the other station must have equal rights.
A TVB spokesman said: 'There has been no talk of taking legal action against ATV.'
Under the International Olympic Committee's terms, at least 200 hours of games coverage should be broadcast on free-to-air channels.