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TVB unhappy at proposed changes

TELEVISION broadcaster TVB last night said it was unhappy with the changes proposed in the Television (Amendment) Bill, which was gazetted yesterday.

The bill to amend the Television Ordinance has left the terrestrial station complaining that it faces unfair competition from satellite station STAR TV and potential subscription television operator, Wharf Cable.

TVB is drawing up a report for the Government's planned mid-term review next year of the broadcasting industry and hopes it will adopt a ''fairer manner'' on advertising royalty payments and broadcasting requirements.

While the aim of the bill is, according to the Government, to ''relax certain programming and advertising requirements'', TVB complained that STAR would soon be allowed to broadcast in Cantonese without being subject to the same stringent conditions as itself.

The maximum rate of TVB's and rival broadcaster ATV's advertising royalties has been cut from 12 to 10 per cent, but this will still mean STAR TV will pay a fraction of the millions given to the Government annually by the two stations, claimed TVB spokesman Ms Lily Chan Chu-kiu.

''We are hoping we will be able to get the Government to look at the royalty issue in the future so that TVB and STAR TV enjoy fair competition,'' she said.

She also said it was unfair that STAR TV and the future pay-TV operator are now allowed to branch out in business, while TVB and ATV are restricted to investments in broadcast-related ventures.

But Ms Chan was reticent to say the terrestrial broadcasters will be badly hit by the introduction of pay-TV.

''There is nothing wrong with more choice and competition which will only make us more exciting,'' Ms Chan promised.

The amendments to the Television Ordinance were first announced in the middle of last year in the broadcasting review. The bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

While the Government's broadcasting body, the Recreation and Culture Branch, said late last year it had hoped Wharf would have by now been awarded a provisional licence for the pay-TV franchise, the company is now expected to get the go-ahead next month.

The Executive Council is expected to hold detailed discussions on the licence next month and a permanent licence issued within three months.