GETTING a degree in English, German, Italian or business will be as easy as sitting back in a lounge chair and switching on the television, after a new channel starts at 5 pm today. Cable Learning Channel will be the first in Hong Kong to offer students the chance to study degree courses by turning on the television. It will also be the first channel to offer round-the-clock, locally produced educational Kong.'' Ms Wu drew up the channel's schedule, liaised with learning institutes and advised on sets for locally produced programmes. ''Wharf hopes the channel will bridge a gap in the market and provide informative and educational services not available on television in Hong Kong,'' she said. ''There is no other channel that offers programmes of such diversity that will be entertaining to a wide range of people and age groups. ''There is no other channel that offers educational programmes explained in Cantonese.'' Viewers will be able to brush up on Chinese herbal medicines, learn how to stay healthy, how to care for plants and play music for beginners. English, German, practical business skills and making the best use of computers will also be broadcast every day in Cantonese. ''If Cable is to be at all successful in Hong Kong then we have to broadcast primarily in Cantonese, which is the first language of more than 95 per cent of the population,'' Ms Wu said. ''There is some demand for more international, English-language programming, but it is very small - and it can be met by regional television as well as satellite.'' While many programmes were still being developed, Wharf hoped the channel, one of three to be launched this month, would encourage more subscribers to take educational courses via the television, Ms Wu said. ''The stresses of modern living mean many people can't afford the time to go to universities or tertiary institutes for courses,'' she said. ''Mothers with young children can do their lessons at home and so can people who are holding down full-time jobs.'' Ms Wu said students could watch their lessons regardless of their other commitments since each programme would be shown three times a day. ''We wanted to give our subscribers the chance to broaden their knowledge using our service,'' she said. Wharf did not launch the channel as a profit-making venture, but many learning institutes had started subscriptions so programmes could be used as in-class teaching aids. programmes in Cantonese and English for adults and children. Channel manager Ellen Wu said: ''It's a whole new concept for Hong Wharf, one of the largest conglomerates of building, shipping and business interests in Hong Kong, started drawing up its Learning Channel package in October after winning a government franchise. Surveys found more than 750,000 students enrolled each year in courses offered by the territory's tertiary and adult education institutions. ''We had to work out what sort of market we were aiming at in order to work out what type of programmes we would broadcast,'' Ms Wu said. Teachers have always searched for ways to make lessons more interesting: one problem Wharf Cable organisers had to solve was getting and keeping the attention selected after Wharf Cable conducted surveys on institutes, universities, students and schools, asking them what would be a good curricula. There are programmes for certificate students and also for people who wish to pursue hobbies. Subscribers to Wharf Cable network, which will offer 11 channels by the end of this month, will be able to tune into the Learning Channel for $198 a month. ''Although it is a new channel, we have decided not to increase subscriptions so that students can use the service without having to pay extra,'' Ms Wu said. While Wharf Cable provides the studio and filming equipment for locally produced shows, local educational institutes supply the programme content, educational materials and even professors. Goethe Institut, Alliance Francaise, Hong Kong University, and the Chinese University are all taking part in the joint venture with Wharf Cable. ''Many of the programmes on the new Learning Channel are locally produced using Wharf studios, cameras and sets - which is of great advantage to our audience,'' Ms Wu said. ''But, because Wharf is a broadcaster and not an educator, we have left the role of being teacher to the various institutes that want to air their lessons. ''Content of lessons, enrolments, examinations and tutorials are all organised by reputable institutions such as the Open Learning Institute. ''We organise the production of the programmes and they come up with the course material and organise classes.'' After completing their courses, students receive certificates endorsed by both Wharf and OLI. However, only a small percentage of shows set to be broadcast on the channel are now locally produced. ''Wharf Cable buys programmes from international television networks, including Thames International, CBC and the Educational Film Service, to add to the wide range of shows,'' Ms Wu said. ''Adding an element of entertainment to programmes was one of the challenges,'' Ms Wu said. ''However, many of our programmes have already been tried and tested abroad and are dubbed into Cantonese in Hong Kong. ''That way we were sure the programmes were interesting and would best suit the needs of students in Hong Kong.''