Communications Authority Press Release (March)


This press release summarises the decisions of the Communications Authority ("CA") following its 73rd meeting held in March 2018.

Public Views Sought on the Relaxation of the Regulation of Indirect Advertising and Advertisements for Undertaker and Associated Services

The CA today (28 March 2018) issued two consultation papers to invite views and comments from the public on the relaxation of the regulation of indirect advertising; and on the lifting of prohibition on the broadcasting of advertisements for undertaker and associated services respectively.  The consultation will last for one month until 28 April 2018.

Relaxation of the Regulation of Indirect Advertising

With the emergence of new media in recent years, the CA appreciates that TV licensees are facing keen competition and may need to diversify their sources of advertising.  As announced in September 2017, the CA decided to review the regulation of indirect advertising, with a view to relaxing, wherever possible and appropriate, the relevant standards and restrictions1.  In undertaking the review, the CA has also taken into account the findings of the research into the regulation of indirect advertising and sponsorship in free TV services in overseas jurisdictions and a territory-wide survey to gauge public views on product placement.   

The CA has completed the review.  The CA's relaxation proposals seek to strike a balance between protection of the interests of viewers on the one hand, and provision of a more conducive business environment for licensees on the other.  Major proposals are set out below -

  1. to lift the current prohibition on indirect advertising2 in free TV services save for in news programmes, current affairs programmes, children's programmes, educational programmes, religious service or other devotional programmes;
  2. to continue to allow product placement (i.e. inclusion of products/services within a programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration being received by a licensee) in current affairs programmes on condition that licensees exercise care in the choice of sponsors to safeguard the credibility and integrity of such programmes;
  3. to maintain the current practice of adopting general principles, as opposed to imposing detailed guidelines, for regulating product placement, so as to preserve creativity and flexibility, and to relax the general principles regulating product placement as per below -
    1. the exposure or use of products/services within a programme is presented in a natural and unobtrusive manner having regard to the programme context and genres; and
    2. there is no direct encouragement of purchase or use of products/services;
  4. to remove the current prohibition on undue prominence regarding unpaid commercial references within a programme;
  5. notwithstanding (d) above, a licensee is deemed to have received payment or other valuable consideration (and hence subject to the rules governing product placement) for including in its programmes products/services of another company in the group of companies3 of which the licensee is a member in order to avoid creating a loophole for a free or pay TV licensee to use its licensed TV service as a platform to provide indirect advertising for its associated companies without being subject to any regulation;
  6. for the protection of viewers' interest, licensees to be required to make an aural and visual statement at the start of a programme to clearly inform viewers of the inclusion of product placement;
  7. to exempt acquired programmes (defined as programmes, produced locally or overseas, which are not produced by the licensees) from compliance with the rules governing indirect advertising and product placement, provided that the inclusion of indirect advertising therein does not give rise to any payment or other valuable consideration to the licensee. To strike a balance between the interests of viewers and licensees, the prohibition of indirect advertising in respect of specific programme genres and the notification requirement to apply also to acquired programmes; and
  8. as an extension of the current exemption for direct re-transmission channels, to exempt direct re-transmission channels which are produced primarily for reception in Hong Kong on a pay TV service (which do not contribute to any advertising revenue of the licensee) from compliance with the rules governing indirect advertising and product placement on condition that the licensee would indicate in its publicly announced or published programmes schedules that such channels are acquired for direct re-transmission and may contain indirect advertising.

The above relaxation proposals have factored in, where appropriate, the views of the broadcasting licensees following an industry consultation the CA conducted.  During the one-month consultation period, the CA would convene a number of focus group discussions so as to collect more in-depth views on the relaxation proposals. 

Lifting of the Prohibition on Advertisements for Undertaker and Associated Services

The CA proposes to remove the current prohibition in the codes of practice governing TV and radio advertising on inclusion of advertisements for undertaker or others associated with death or burial (except for advertisements for columbaria in compliance with the relevant presentation and scheduling requirements) in a licensed service. 

The CA has received views from the public that the restriction on advertisements for funeral services could be relaxed provided that they do not make reference to death and terror.  There are also comments from broadcasting licensees that in view of changing social and cultural values, the restriction should be lifted so that the viewing public could be better informed of the services relating to after-death arrangements.

In view of the foregoing and in line with the general direction to relax the current regulatory regime, the CA proposes to lift the general prohibition on advertisements for undertaker and associated services in television and radio services, subject to certain conditions on presentation and scheduling as a safeguard to protect the interests of the audience.

Consultation

The consultation documents are available at the CA's website:

Public Consultation on the Review of the Regulation of Indirect Advertising

Public Consultation on the Review of the Restriction on Broadcast of Advertisements for Undertaker and Others Associated with Death or Burial

Members of the public are welcome to give views and comments on the issues in writing on or before 28 April 2018 by post to Communications Authority Secretariat, 20/F, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong; by fax to 2507 2219; or by email to consultation-cop@ofca.gov.hk.

For enquiries, please email to consultation-cop@ofca.gov.hk or call the Special Duty Division at 2961 6456 or 2961 6309.

CA Publishes the CA Statement on Change in the Allocation of the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz Band from Fixed Satellite Service ("FSS") to Mobile Service

To make available additional radio spectrum to meet the demand of public mobile services towards 2020 and beyond and to enable Hong Kong to gear up for the commercial launch of fifth generation ("5G") mobile service, the CA issued a Statement today promulgating its decision to re-allocate the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band from FSS to mobile service for the provision of public mobile services with effect from 1 April 2020.  This will give affected parties an advance notice of about two years.  As a result, an additional 200 MHz of spectrum (on top of the current 552 MHz of spectrum) will be made available for the provision of public mobile services.  The CA Statement also sets out the arrangements to be put in place to enable the co-existence of the FSS and public mobile service operating in different parts of the 3.4 - 4.2 GHz band.

The decision is made by the CA after taken into account views and comments received in the public consultation conducted between July and September 2017 and recommendations of a consultancy study on the co-existence of satellite master antenna television ("SMATV") system and public mobile services operating in different parts of the 3.4 - 4.2 GHz band.  While 200 MHz of spectrum in the 3.4 - 3.6 GHz band ("the 3.5 GHz band") will be assigned for the provision of public mobile services, 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 - 3.7 GHz band will be partitioned as a guard band to minimise potential radio interference to FSS which will continue to operate in the 3.7 - 4.2 GHz band.

As existing earth stations for telemetry, tracking and control ("TT&C") of satellites in orbit ("TT&C Stations") are important for the operation of the licensed satellite networks, licensed TT&C Stations will be allowed to continue their respective TT&C operations in the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band and will be protected from radio interference of public mobile services.  To this effect, the CA will implement restriction zones in Tai Po and Stanley where these TT&C Stations are located.  Deployment of mobile base stations of public mobile services in the 3.5 GHz band inside the restriction zones will be forbidden.

Other licensed systems of external fixed telecommunications network services ("EFTNS") and SMATV, as well as self-provided external telecommunications systems ("SPETS") which continue to operate in the 3.7 - 4.2 GHz band should implement necessary mitigating measures4 so that they will be able to co-exist with future mobile base stations operating in the 3.5 GHz band.  In case any of these systems, after upgrade, are subject to harmful interference from the subsequently-installed mobile base stations, the mobile network operators concerned should adjust or relocate their mobile base stations to obviate the interference.  Any subsequent radio stations of EFTNS, SPETS and SMATV should only be installed at locations where their operation will not be adversely affected by any mobile base stations already operating in the vicinity.

A copy of the CA Statement can be downloaded from the CA's website.

Communications Authority
Secretariat

28 March 2018

Notes:

 (1)

Please refer to the CA's press release on 4 September 2017 for details.

 (2)

Indirect advertising is defined as the mingling of programme and advertising material or the embedding of advertising material within programme content, whether inadvertently or by design.  Indirect advertising may or may not give rise to a payment or other valuable consideration being received by licensees.

 (3)

The definition of "group of companies" in section 2(1) of the Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622), which refers to "any 2 or more bodies corporate one of which is the holding company of the other or others" will be adopted.

 (4)

The mitigating measures are elaborated in the CA Statement.

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