WHARF Cable is expected to be issued a provisional licence to operate the cable TV network next month, despite an earlier undertaking by the Government to grant the franchise this month. The latest step towards getting a pay-TV service up and running follows the Executive Council's decision yesterday to endorse the draft legislation which paves the way for cable TV. The ironing out of technical details in the bill caused the Government to miss its own deadline for giving Wharf the go ahead, sources said. In November, the Secretary for Recreation and Culture, Mr James So Yiu-cho, said he was hopeful Wharf would be awarded the licence by Christmas, after expressing support for the Wharf package. Tomorrow, Chinese officials in the Joint Liaison Group will be informed of the Exco decision when details of licensing conditions, which will dictate the terms of the 12-year franchise, will be spelt out. Hongkong subscription television proposals came under threat late last year when China threatened not to honour franchises it had not approved after 1997. Draft legislation is now expected to be gazetted on Friday. Next week the draft legislation will be tabled in the Legislative Council for first and second readings. Exco is expected to hold detailed discussions on the pay-TV licensing conditions at its first session next month. Although Wharf has not yet officially been awarded the pay-TV contract, it is thought the company will be awarded a permanent licence within three months. The Wharf Cable team has already begun working towards having seven channels on the air by October.