Communications Authority Press Release (September)

This press release summarises the outcome of the Communications Authority ("CA")'s deliberations in September 2012:

Revision of the Generic Code of Practice on Television Technical Standards

In response to a joint application of Asia Television Limited ("ATV") and Television Broadcasts Limited ("TVB"), the CA approved revision of the Generic Code of Practice on Television Technical Standards which will take effect in October 2012 upon gazettal.  The revision allows the two Digital Terrestrial Television ("DTT") broadcasters to switch from MPEG-2 to H.264 as the video coding for four simulcast television programme channels around end October.  The use of H.264 coding will enhance the picture quality of the four simulcast channels and open up the possibility of providing more programme channels, introducing high definition television ("HDTV") or three-dimensional television services.  The CA also noted that TVB would upgrade the Pearl Channel from standard definition television to HDTV upon the change of the video coding.

The change of video coding from MPEG-2 to H.264 will be seamless to most viewers.  Only a small portion of DTT receivers may require minor user intervention, such as re-scanning DTT channels on the receiver, for resuming normal reception after the change.  The two broadcasters will make public announcement before effecting the change and maintain service hotlines to respond to public enquiry during the changeover period. 

Application by Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited for Extension of Deadline to Launch Digital Audio Broadcasting Service

In September, the CA rejected the application of Metro Broadcast Corporation Limited ("Metro") for extending the deadline to formally launch its digital audio broadcasting ("DAB") service. 

Metro is required under its licence to launch a DAB service within 18 months after licence grant, by 21 September 2012.  In its application, Metro submitted that there were significant technical difficulties in respect of DAB network coverage and transmission quality which rendered them impossible to provide a satisfactory service.  Metro requested for an extension of the deadline to 31 August 2013, when the DAB network coverage would be further improved.

The CA did not consider that the technical issues concerning network coverage and transmission quality as submitted by Metro constituted  justifiable ground for an extension of the deadline.  Metro had submitted in its licence application that it would launch service upon the availability of the transmitter at Mount Gough.  The CA noted that the transmitter at Mount Gough had been completed and six other principal transmitters had also come into operation.  This had exceeded the scale of the minimum transmission network as indicated in Metro's licence application.  The other DAB licensees, who employ the same transmission network and infrastructure, were able to launch their DAB service by the same deadline as Metro.  The CA also noted that it was a common practice in many places that the launch of DAB services was conducted in parallel with network roll-out.  

After being notified of the CA's decision, Metro launched its DAB service on 19 September 2012.  As Metro has failed to notify the CA at least 30 days in advance as required under its licence as to the commencement date of its DAB service, the CA has reminded Metro to exercise more vigilance in ensuring compliance with licence conditions.

Application for Extension of Deadline to Provide Electronic Programme Guide on DAB Services

The CA approved that the deadline for the three DAB licensees, namely Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, Metro and Phoenix U Radio Limited, to provide an electronic programme guide ("EPG") on their DAB services be extended from 21 September 2012 to 21 September 2013 subject to the conditions that the licensees should submit an action plan by 21 December 2012 on introduction of the EPG; and a progress report by 21 June 2013. 

A DAB licensee is required under its licence to co-ordinate with other DAB broadcasters to launch an EPG by 21 September 2012, showing scheduling information of current and upcoming programmes broadcast by the operators. 

The three licensees requested for a two-year extension of the deadline to provide an EPG on the grounds that EPG-enabled DAB+ radios were not widely available in the Hong Kong market and there was no sign that EPG would become a prevailing feature for DAB+ receiver in the foreseeable future.  While the CA noted that the development of EPG-enabled receivers using DAB+ technology worldwide had been slower than expected, that did not constitute in the CA's view justifiable ground for a two-year extension of the deadline.  The popularity or availability of EPG-enabled DAB+ radios should not be the crucial or sole factor accountable for the delay in launching EPG by the DAB licensees.  The licensees had already been allowed 18 months to prepare for the introduction of the EPG since licence grant in March 2011.  Without the launch of EPG by DAB licensees, manufacturers would not develop EPG-enabled DAB+ radios and consumers would have no incentive to acquire EPG-enabled radios.  Having considered the above,  the CA decided to grant a one-year extension to the deadline, with the conditions that DAB licensees need to submit an action plan and progress report on the implementation of EPG with a view to launching the EPG by 21 September 2013.

Application by ATV for Launching a New Infotainment Channel in place of the TVS Channel

The CA approved the application of ATV for launching a new infotainment channel on its DTT service by 1 January 2013 in place of its existing TVS Channel, which will cease broadcast on 1 October 2012.  In approving the application, the CA considered it acceptable for ATV to take about three months to prepare for the launch of the new channel and noted that the new channel would continue to provide no less than 20% of locally-produced programmes.  To make up for the shortfall in the amount of locally-produced programmes committed by ATV during the 3-month cessation of the infotainment channel, ATV is required to increase during that period the amount of locally-produced programmes on its Asia Channel from 60 hours to 93.5 hours per week.

Complaint Case

The CA also considered a public complaint against the television programmes "Dolce Vita" (港生活‧港享受) and "Dolce Vita" (明珠生活) broadcast on the Pearl and the HD Jade Channels of TVB on 19 April and 25 April 2012 respectively.  The CA decided that TVB should be advised to observe more closely the relevant provisions in the Generic Code of Practice on Television Programme Standards ("TV Programme Code") and the Generic Code of Practice on Television Advertising Standards ("TV Advertising Code").Further details of the case are at the Appendix.

Communications Authority

28 September 2012