Regional broadcasters are urging Asia's governments to liberalise their television markets to keep up with international developments. The industry body, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, has stepped up lobbying in an effort to clear regulatory hurdles that are keeping markets closed. Former association president Frank Brown, who is president of MTV Networks Asia, said some of the laws in Asia were outdated compared with international broadcasting conventions. 'For example, in Thailand, it is prohibited to put ads on cable-TV channels . . . and in Malaysia, TV commercials shown on screen must be produced in the country,' he said. The association has submitted views to Hong Kong broadcasting authorities complaining of piracy and to the Taiwan authorities regarding 'ad-masking' - where local cable operators replace regional commercials with local commercials without permission from the regional networks. Broadcasters said the enforcement of existing codes prohibiting ad-masking and piracy was a major problem across the region. Failure to protect regional broadcasters could hold back the development of the regional industry and discourage foreign media firms from investing in the market, according to Mr Brown. China, a market of 90 million cable-television users, is a major lure for international 24-hour broadcasters but the market remains largely off limits. Marcel Fenez, the new association president, as well as the Asia-Pacific leader of entertainment and media practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said he was cautious about China's market. This was despite recent official approval for cable-television carriage rights in Guangdong and joint ventures between foreign firms and state-run broadcaster China Central Television. 'China's accession to the World Trade Organisation will not have a direct impact on the broadcasting sector,' Mr Fenez said. He expected China would seek to improve domestic broadcasters' competitiveness by allowing foreign players limited market access. International broadcasters argue that better access to Asian markets could be achieved while addressing local concerns about keeping a balance between foreign and local programmes. They said foreign firms were willing to produce more customised programmes and launch local feeds to tap the Asian market. India offers a development model that foreign broadcasters would like to see repeated. Mr Brown said 30 to 40 channels had been launched in India last year, mostly created locally. Meanwhile, he projected flat or even negative growth for Asia's broadcasting industry this year amid a sluggish advertising market. However, Mr Brown said there was still room to grow Asia's advertising market compared with those of other developed countries.