TVB's interest in ATV spectrum raises alarm
Dominant local terrestrial station TVB said it was interested in seeking the broadcast spectrum soon to be vacated by cash-strapped broadcaster ATV, raising concerns about further concentration of its market power in the city's free TV sector.
TVB Group chief executive officer Mark Lee Po-on said yesterday the station required additional spectrum on top of its existing assigned frequencies to enhance its high-definition digital terrestrial television service.
The television giant has written to the Communications Authority to ask for more spectrum, after separately requesting permission to reallocate its own spectrum to air its flagship Jade channel in higher picture quality.
Asked whether TVB would monopolise broadcast spectrum in the local TV sector if it was given some of ATV's frequencies, Lee said: "TVB only has the 'air' [spectrum], but our competitor has the air as well as 'land' [landline network]."
PCCW's new service, HK Television Entertainment Company (HKTVE), was formally granted a free-to-air TV licence last month and has applied for spectrum to air its free programmes.
An increasing number of aspiring new entrants to the local free TV sector are also eyeing the available spectrum.
This follows the government's decision, advised by the authority, last month to withdraw the two sets of analogue TV channels and 11/2 digital multiplexes assigned to ATV after its free licence expires from April 2 next year.
Leaving aside the analogue spectrum to be taken over by RTHK, the Communications Authority considered the digital multiplexes of spectrum withdrawn from ATV to be more than enough to meet the requirements of HKTVE.
The authority said the surplus of digital multiplex would be available for assignment to other free TV licensees. TVB said it would be interested in applying when the surplus spectrum was available for bidding.
But IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok questioned whether it would further tip the scales in TVB's favour if the local giant, which also owns two sets of analogue channels and 11/2 digital multiplexes, could seek more.
"Broadcast spectrum is a valuable resource... Members of the public want genuine choice [of TV programmes]," said Mok.
He urged the government to create a fair mechanism to allocate spectrum for TV licensees.