WHARF Cable expects to begin broadcasting in 19 days, but without the four prime viewing channels promised by satellite programmer STAR TV. With the countdown to October 31 well under way, a memorandum of understanding between the two companies has still not been signed. Wharf Cable deputy chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi yesterday said the necessary legal documents sealing the deal were still with the lawyers and were taking much longer than expected to finalise. The change in ownership and management at STAR TV was also partly to blame for the delay, he said. On July 26, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corp paid US$525 million for a 63.6 per cent stake in STAR TV, which was followed by many changes at the Asian satellite television company. A STAR TV spokesman yesterday declined to confirm how many employees had been sacked as part of a restructuring now taking place within the company. But reports put the figure at 130. [figure of 130 is incorrect!!!]. The spokesman insisted that STAR TV, which is to be the exclusive provider of non-Cantonese programming on the Wharf Cable network, would be on schedule. But Mr Ng estimated it would be weeks, if not months, before his company would begin adding STAR TV's four new premium pay channels to the other 11 channels it would broadcast from day one. Wharf Cable is determined the changes at STAR TV will not prevent the company meeting its ambitious launch date of October 31 - four months ahead of the deadline set by the regulatory authorities and just five months after being awarded a broadcasting licence. There have been no major hitches with any of the eight Cantonese channels Wharf Cable will be providing itself. All will be up and running when Governor Chris Patten and Wharf Cable chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching launch the network, as will three of STAR TV's five existing free-to-air channels be broadcast - BBC World Service, Prime Sports and MTV Asia. The hitch is with STAR TV's four new premium pay channels: English business news, English children's television, English movies and Mandarin movies. Wharf Cable will begin broadcasting to just 300,000 homes in housing estates in Sha Tin before gradually spreading to other parts of the territory.