Another TV hurdle for English speakers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 July, 2012, 12:00am


English-speaking Olympics fans in Hong Kong are furious after finding that most of the coverage on iCable is in Cantonese.

The paid-for channel originally held the exclusive right to broadcast the Games, and reached an agreement with free-to-air TVB and ATV only last week to allow them to screen 200 hours of events.

But as the dispute between the channels dragged on, some sports fans thought purchasing an iCable subscription would be a safer bet.

Now, non-Cantonese speaking iCable customers are angry after discovering that they do not have access to English audio for all of iCable's coverage.

'My husband speaks only English,' said iCable subscriber Wong So Kam.

'We tried to watch the opening round of women's soccer on Wednesday, but everything was in Cantonese with no English audio or subtitles. This is ridiculous in an international city like Hong Kong, where English is one of the official languages.'

TVB and ATV's Olympic programming will also mostly be in Cantonese, but users with the Nicam (Near Instantaneous Companded Audio Multiplex) function on their sets can switch to English audio.

iCable offers subscribers four channels broadcasting the London Olympics - two in Cantonese and two in English. But the English channels will air only the most popular events.

iCable's Cantonese channels will broadcast all of the Olympic events, but will not offer Nicam's English translation services.

An iCable spokeswoman said: 'We cannot comment on why our Cantonese channels don't offer Nicam. Most of the more popular Olympic events, like swimming, track and field and soccer, will be available on our English channels.'

But another iCable subscriber, Ian Marriott, said: 'That's really frustrating. I pay HK$367 a month for my subscription and I expected much better English coverage of the Olympic Games.'

Non-Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong might resort to watching illegal streams of Olympic events online, but some would still prefer the experience of watching on television.

Wong added: 'We know it's easy to find illegal streams, but we don't want to watch on a computer screen after paying for the iCable service.'

Viewers who plan to watch the London Olympics on ATV and TVB will need to switch between the channels, because the stations will each air half of the 200 hours of Olympic coverage they purchased from iCable.

Older television sets usually do not have a Nicam option.

Non-Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong with older televisions might have no choice but to watch illegally online or listen to the radio.

iCable had asked the High Court to prevent the two broadcasters 'conspiring' to cut a coverage deal in violation of its 2007 licence agreement with the International Olympic Committee.

But it withdrew the breach-of-contract lawsuit just hours before a government-brokered deal to ensure free coverage was struck.