A broadcast media group consolidating five provincial radio, television and network companies in Guangdong province will begin operations on December 26. The Southern Broadcast Television Group will have combined fixed assets of more than 10 billion yuan. It has been set up to integrate the region's broadcast networks and position itself for competition from Hong Kong. The core of the group comprises Guangdong Radio Station, Guangdong Television Station, Southern Television Station, the Guangdong Provincial Broadcast Technology Centre and Guangdong Cable, Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday. The group will later merge 19 local television, broadcast and network companies to create a broadcasting giant that covers 9 million households for cable television and 10 million households for free-to-air television, the report said. Guangdong has been late in streamlining its broadcast resources, despite constant pressure from Hong Kong competitors. Beijing and Shanghai formed their broadcast groups in 2001 and about a dozen provinces have also consolidated their broadcasters. An official at the Guangdong Administration of Radio, Film and Television told the South China Morning Post in October that the restructuring had been planned for more than two years. Industry sources said the process had been delayed by strong protectionism from counties that have their own cable television systems and rely heavily on subscription fees for revenue. Their non-cooperation, or even obstruction in some cases, had made it difficult to develop a provincial-wide network. The advertising market for the Guangdong broadcasting media is estimated at more than 4 billion yuan a year. But Guangdong television stations are under pressure from Hong Kong broadcasters TVB and ATV, whose signals reach the area. Broadcasting is regarded as the most politically sensitive media sector and the reorganisation is not expected to weaken official control over the medium.