The government has proposed easing restrictions for direct foreign investors Deregulation of Taiwan's cable-television industry will attract investment of US$200 million to $400 million, according to Media Partners Asia executive director Vivek Couto. A proposed amendment by the island's Government Information Office (GIO) would see the cap on foreign direct investment in the sector raised from 20 per cent to 49 per cent. 'The foreign investment will be mainly in content, such as acquiring and creating new content to drive cable TV growth, technology for broadband Internet access, cable telephony, digital set-top boxes and interactive TV, as well as infrastructure,' Mr Couto said. In January, the GIO drafted amendments to the Radio and Television Broadcasting Law, merging it with the Cable Audio and Television Broadcasting Law and the Satellite Audio and Television Broadcasting Law into a single 'three-in-one bill'. Proposals include allowing more room for foreign investment and the creation of an independent super-regulator, the National Communications and Broadcasting Commission, to regulate broadcasting, television, broadband and telecommunications enterprises. The bill has been passed and reviewed by the Executive Yuan, which will start hearing it in September. David Dea, chief executive of market leader Taiwan Broadband Communications (TBC), said: 'All the industry players support this bill.' He said if the bill won a smooth passage, a deregulated cable-TV industry structure could be in place by the end of the year, encouraging companies to seek overseas listings. 'It would encourage possible IPOs [initial public offerings], assuming the market valuations of regional cable companies improve, particularly [Hong Kong's] i-Cable's,' he said. There are 63 pay-TV operators in Taiwan and cable-TV penetration reached a record 83 per cent last year, up from 68 per cent in 1995. China Network Systems, which is 20 per cent owned by News Corp's Star Group, Eastern Multimedia and TBC, controls up to 65 per cent of the market. Subscribers are offered packages of more than 70 channels at a fixed rate of no more than NT$600 (HK$135) per month as regulated by the GIO. Average revenue per user has been flat at US$16 over the past three years. '[Deregulation] is critical, particularly to allow cable operators to tier their services and offer premium services at unregulated rates,' Mr Couto said. 'The basic rate cap is holding back a lot of value-driven plans.'