Tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay is unlikely to be able to substantiate his suggestion that two terrestrial broadcasters are in breach of their licences because their services can be picked up on the move, an insider at one of the stations says.
Wong claims ATV and TVB services can be picked up on portable devices, such as handheld televisions. He said that bolstered his argument that his Hong Kong Television Network should be able to use its mobile television licence to broadcast services for mobiles that could also be seen on television.
But a TVB source said the question of whether it breached its licence under the Telecommunications Ordinance, which allows it to transmit broadcasts only between fixed antennas, rested on whether it intentionally served mobile devices.
The source said the parameters of the Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB) standard it used meant that, even if its services could be picked up on the move, the picture quality would be poor.
The Post yesterday put to the test Wong's claim that ATV and TVB services could be picked up on the move.
Reporters tried a handheld portable television in three locations in Sham Shui Po and Jordan with no success, but were able to pick up programmes for a few seconds while travelling on the Kwun Tong bypass and in an area of Sha Tin with no high-rise buildings nearby.
Wong had wanted to use DTMB for HKTV's mobile television service. He scrapped the planned service last week after the Office of the Communications Authority said he would need a free-to-air television licence in addition to his mobile broadcasting licence if he used a transmission standard that could be picked up on televisions in more than 5,000 homes.
He questioned why OFCA did not investigate ATV and TVB over broadcasts that can be picked up on the move. OFCA said the fact transmissions could be picked up on portable devices did not necessarily mean a broadcaster needed a mobile licence.
Wong argues that, if the watchdog shows leeway to the pair over the devices their broadcasts can be picked up on, it should do the same for HKTV. Technology experts said Wong's account and that of the source were not so far apart.
Keith Li King-wah, an executive committee member of Hong Kong Wireless Technology Industry Association, said the problem was a lack of a clear definition of what mobile television is.
While Wong wanted to use the same basic standard as TVB, he would have to add technological features so that signals could be picked up on the move. He added: "Wong can argue he intends to offer a mobile TV service, but it just so happens that fixed TV can also pick up the signal and that is not his intention."
Chinese University journalism scholar Dr Francis Lee Lap-fung said the source's account "appeared identical to Wong's" as Wong "was arguing that he had no intention to provide broadcasts that could be picked up on television sets".