Knock-on effects from Asia's financial crisis have hit the region's media sector, with hundreds laid-off, mergers brought on by fiscal expediency, suspension of expansion projects and acceptance that things are unlikely to improve for some time. The TV, print, music, advertising and public relations fields each have suffered serious blows. Compounding matters is the fact that the impact of the economic downswing still has to be accurately assessed. After dramatic expansion in the 1990s, the pay-TV sector has come to a halt in many markets. In 1990, there were minuscule numbers of people paying subscriptions to watch TV; by the middle of last year, there were close to 100 million. This year, it seems likely the rise in the numbers of subscribers will plateau. In Hong Kong, Cable TV expects 100,000 new customers, a drop of 30,000 on an earlier estimate. China Entertainment TV remains on the critical list, with chairman and founder Robert Chua dependent on donations to stay on air. Already this year, the TV Shopping Network has wound up its Indonesian operation and last week, Malaysian satellite TV platform Measat laid-off 300 staff across the board in response to rising costs and falling levels of demand. Operators paying for equipment and programmes in US dollars are feeling the squeeze. In Indonesia, the Indostar satellite TV platform is pleading with channel providers to cut prices. In particular, Turner International has been asked to drop its fee of 35 US cents per subscriber by at least a third, and ideally by half. In Jakarta, analysts say three of the six broadcasters will go under unless there are mergers. Thailand's two dominant pay TV operators, UTV and IBC, merged last week. Despite this move, Bangkok reports forecast 900 jobs would be lost in the sector. Confirmation that Asia's music industry also has been affected came with the announcement from Paris that conference organiser the Reed Midem Organisation had postponed its Midem gathering planned for Bali at the end of May because of market 'instability', adding it did not 'allow us to give our clients the necessary guarantees of promotional and financial return that they would expect'. Hong Kong 4As chairman Allen Chichester said there would be 'significant lay-offs' among agencies based in the SAR, although the sector could be cushioned by single-figure growth of ad spending on TV, cinema and print in the mainland. Korean and Indonesian ad agencies have been savaged in the past three months. Ad billings are forecast to drop by a third in value, and a dozen agencies have folded this year. Many people still in work have been put on unpaid leave, given early retirement or had maternity leave extended. Traditional wisdom in the media industry suggests that when business is depressed companies concentrate on sharpening their image, generating business for public relations agencies. However, the Hong Kong office of Burson Marsteller last week axed 20 jobs in its financial, creative, corporate and design teams on the back of what one of those shown the door described as a US$10 million loss for the Asia Pacific operation. Regionally, the print sector is suffering also. Thai and Korean journalists either are being laid off, or allowed to keep their jobs if they agree to salary cuts. The situation is exacerbated in Hong Kong, Asia's most competitive newspaper market. Surprise Weekly closed at the end of January with the loss of 100 jobs, while another 100 are set to disappear over the coming months at Apple Daily . It is understood Oriental Press Group has put plans for a new daily title, tentatively called The Sun, on hold for the foreseeable future. Equipment suppliers have found customers cancelling orders which were placed midway through last year, either because they cannot pay for them in US dollars, or because expansion plans are on hold. US aerospace giant Hughes is in the middle of closing its offices in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong as part of a cost-cutting exercise that will see its regional operations covered from Tokyo. Pace, the British manufacturer of decoder boxes for cable and satellite TV signals, has pulled out of the Indonesian market after sales stuttered to a near halt. Meanwhile, direct-to-home satellite TV platform Asia Broadcasting and Communications Network - (ABCN) due to target Thailand, Taiwan and the mainland - laid off half its 200 employees in January and reduced the salaries of those remaining by up to 50 per cent. Staffers have been told the DTH project is 'on hold', and its Thai backer, United Communications Industry, is in the process of selling its stake in ABCN to a management group led by one of its existing investors, Loral Corp. In the US, Loral said it was putting construction plans on hold for two ABCN satellites that were due for launch in May and November, as well as laying off 9 per cent of its workforce. There are some bright spots, even in troubled Indonesia. Metra is preparing to launch its new service in Jakarta, undercutting dominant pay-TV operator Indostar, although the project does not have a launch date. In addition, the Japanese Broadcasting Association forecasts the country's ad spending will grow 3.5 per cent in the 1998 financial year on the back of a greater use of TV as a medium that will increase the pie, rather than take slices from competing media. Salomon Smith Barney Global Equity Research analyst Kaushik Shridharani has forecast an average 13 per cent annual growth rate for the next seven years for the regional TV revenue stream, with that figure rising to 19 per cent for the emerging Taiwan, Malaysian and Korean markets. Mr Shridharani said that despite the present business cycle, there still were 'compelling' reasons to invest in the TV industry.