Failures of Pay TV and digital radio leave Hong Kong’s broadcasting policy at a critical juncture
Given the government’s efforts to develop the services, this is an issue with political ramifications for the city’s next leader
With the resignation of the city’s No 2 official, the curtain is fully raised on Hong Kong’s leadership race, but this past week has not only been about politics.
The broadcaster put the blame on the economic downturn and online piracy. With eight years still left on the licence, its pay TV business has lost up to HK$2.2 billion since launching 13 years ago. As the old Chinese saying goes, a warrior should have the courage to cut off one arm to survive. That is the perfect description for TVB’s not-too-late decision.
Li is dubbed China’s Rupert Murdoch for the vast media empire he has built on the mainland and overseas. With his connections, TVB is actively exploring those markets, so it makes good sense to cut off further investment in the local pay TV market, which has no potential for future growth.
That leaves government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong as the only remaining operator still running digital channels, and the justification for pouring taxpayers’ money into the service is becoming questionable, given the stagnant audience growth.
In a distant, yet relevant, development, Norway last week became the first country in the world to switch off FM radio broadcasting to “go digital”, but the move was controversial because of the lack of digital receivers in cars. The Scandinavian nation’s transformation is being watched by other European countries as a test case. To many Norwegians, convenience also counts, besides better audio quality.
Interestingly, the lack of receiving facilities in tunnels and in cars, plus the lack of a sizeable market in Hong Kong, were the similar causes behind the city’s failed digital radio broadcasting drive all these years.
Now, the government’s long-time efforts in introducing these two services – pay TV and digital radio broadcasts – have entered a crucial juncture. It’s high time for serious reflection on what needs to be critically reviewed in terms of the city’s broadcasting policies, technologically and politically.
As Hong Kong gears up to pick a new leader, it’s an area that should not be neglected for it can lead to political complications as well.