Phoenix founder Liu Changle is spreading his wings in Hong Kong. Photo: May Tse

Broadcaster Phoenix seeks Hong Kong free-to-air television licence

Communications Authority is considering application for digital service, which was submitted in May, before making a recommendation to Executive Council

Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television, which serves mainly mainland China, is flexing its muscles by bidding for a licence to compete in the Hong Kong free-to-air television market.

In an announcement on Monday, the broadcaster said its subsidiary Phoenix Hong Kong Television had submitted an application to the broadcasting watchdog for a “domestic free television programme service licence in Hong Kong with digital terrestrial transmission”.

It said the application was filed on May 6 and was still pending approval.

A spokesman for the Communications Authority confirmed on Monday that the application had been received.

“During June to September, supplementary information and further clarification of some details in the application were also received,” the spokesman said, adding: “The authority will follow established procedures in accordance with the Broadcasting Ordinance when processing Phoenix HK’s application. It will put forward recommendations to the Executive Council as soon as possible.”

Phoenix Satellite TV began to broadcast in 1996 with the philosophy of “reducing the distance within the global Chinese community and expressing the voice of Chinese to the world”.

It serves mainland China and overseas markets with a large base of Chinese viewers. Over the years, the broadcaster has developed into a media empire with an internet website, a weekly magazine and publishing and radio broadcasting projects. However, it returned a digital radio licence to the Hong Kong government last year.

Professor Leung Tin-wai, head of Shue Yan University’s department of journalism and communication, said Hong Kong viewers could expect better productions with more competitors in the market.

“The Hong Kong market is small. And viewers here like to watch more locally produced programmes rather than acquiring programmes from overseas,” Leung said, referring to ViuTV.

Launched in April, PCCW’s ViuTV is the newest broadcaster to join Hong Kong’s free-to-air market. A Cantonese enetertainment channel, it features a lot of popular Korean and Japanese TV dramas.

Hong Kong’s free-to-air TV market is dominated by Television Broadcasts, which claims an audience share of more than 80 per cent during weekday primetime slots.

In April, Asia Television signed off after the Executive Council decided last year not to renew its licence, citing “unsatisfactory” performance among other reasons.

Cable TV-affiliated Fantastic TV was granted a 12-year free television licence in May. The station is expected to launch a Cantonese channel within a year and an English channel within two years – both providing round-the-clock services.

There was a public outcry in 2013 when the government denied telecom entrepreneur Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s HKTV a free-to-air licence. He has since submitted a second licence application.