Friday, March 14, 2014

News Articles: More updates on the HKTV mobile TV licensing issue

Here are some more articles that came out the last 2 days about HKTV.  

The article about Ricky Wong possibly taking over ATV is especially concerning, since we all know the dismal state that ATV is in currently -- plus there's always the possibility that they won't be able to get their license renewed come November 2015.  Even if it's true that RW will have to scrap his mobile television plans now, buying ATV isn't necessarily the better option since it's already obvious that the government is hardset on stopping him at all costs -- if RW were to buy ATV, I wouldn't be surprised if the government deliberately revokes ATV's license in 2015 just to push RW out.

In any case, let's see how this situation unfolds....


Article 1 (published March 15, 2014):

HKTV boss Ricky Wong stirs takeover rumours with televised 'toast' to ATV

Source:  SCMP

Tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay raised a glass to former employer ATV last night as he made a shock appearance on the station - his first since his 12-day stint as its boss in 2008 - and set tongues wagging about his next move.

The Hong Kong Television Network boss, who this week put on hold plans for a mobile television channel, appeared on ATV's News Bar Talk for an unannounced interview with ATV news chief Lau Lan-cheong.

When Lau asked whether Wong had plans to buy or work with the troubled free-to-air broadcaster, Wong said: "This is not a question you should ask me. You'll have to ask your boss … what better point ATV should be brought to."

Lau pressed Wong, mentioning a meeting between him and controversial ATV investor Wong Ching in December. Ricky Wong smiled, raised a glass and said: "Let's toast."

Rumours linking Wong to a takeover of ATV or a deal to show HKTV programmes on its channels have swirled since the government denied HKTV a free-to-air licence in October. Wong then bought a mobile television licence and announced plans for a digital channel. But the Office of the Communications Authority told him he would need a free-to-air or pay-television licence if HKTV's broadcast signals could be shown on sets in more than 5,000 households.

He pilloried seemingly contradictory licensing requirements in his interview, saying: "As a matter of fact, how can there be fewer than 5,000 households ... receiving [mobile TV] when at the same time you have to ensure reception by half of the population, 3.6 million?"

ATV's future has also been the subject of speculation. Its licence is up for renewal next year and the station has frequently been in trouble with regulators, seen its audience share collapse and been accused of bias.

Meanwhile, HKTV last night announced to the stock exchange that there was no technical solution available that would allow it to run mobile television services in the long run.

In the announcement, made after markets closed, the company said it would continue its discussions with OFCA and take other appropriate measures, including court action and exploring online television opportunities. Its share price slid 3.32 per cent to HK$2.33 yesterday.

Wong met about 150 HKTV creative and production staff yesterday. He said it would take him a month to work out a new direction for the company. Sources said Wong told staff they could quit without penalty, but only when they had finished whatever project they were working on.

Article 2 (published March 14, 2014):

HKTV's Ricky Wong fears technology 'trap' could land him in jail

Source:  SCMP

Hong Kong Television Network is bound to face legal uncertainties no matter what transmission standard it adopts - but that is a risk the operator should bear, the broadcasting and telecom watchdog said yesterday.

"Is this a trap?" responded HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, rebutting the contention of the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA). "If I fall into this trap I will go to jail."

The exchange came as OFCA refused to give Wong an assurance his station would be able to stick to one transmission standard for 10 years without having to worry about breaking the law.

"We cannot predict what will happen in 10 years' time," deputy director-general of telecommunications Danny Lau Kwong-cheung said.

Wong, who has pledged to seek a judicial review of OFCA's requirement that he get a licence for his planned mobile television service if he uses his preferred format, said the legal battle would begin in one or two weeks if there was no progress.

OFCA earlier recommended that HKTV adopt the China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) standard, suitable only for use on mobile phones, or the European DVB-H standard.

It rejected HKTV's proposal to use the Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) standard - used by free stations TVB and ATV. When more than 5,000 households can receive HKTV's service via antennae on their buildings, the station would require a free-to-air or pay-television licence on top of the mobile television licence it bought last year, the watchdog said.

Wong turned to mobile TV after his application for a free-to-air licence was rejected last year.

If the DTMB standard was adopted, more than two million households with sets or set-top boxes that can decode DTMB would be able to watch HKTV. If HKTV chose the DVB-H standard, it would not need another TV licence for the time being, the authority said. That is because no sets on the market can decode such transmissions. But if sets able to decode DVB-H became popular the authority would have to act against HKTV, Lau said.

Wong said this left HKTV in jeopardy no matter what it did.

"Following OFCA's logic, no matter what transmission standard HKTV adopts, if our mobile TV service becomes a success and future TV sets install a receiver to receive HKTV's signal, HKTV will still breach the Broadcasting Ordinance."

Keith Li King-wah, a council member of the Hong Kong Wireless Technology Industry Association, said OFCA was being unreasonable in banning HKTV from using DTMB, China's national standard, and asking it to use the two other, outdated standards. "It's like the iPhone is available, but your dad only allows you to use a Nokia from 10 years ago," Li said. "Mobile TV is not subject to the Broadcasting Ordinance but the government keeps changing its stance to target Wong."

Wong said the government in the past had "followed the rules" and allowed him to develop his international telecommunications and internet businesses. But now OFCA was defying the rules by forcing him to get a free or pay-television licence to run the mobile service, he said.


Article 3 (published March 14, 2014):
**Note that this is an opinion piece written by Stephen Vines for SCMP**

Government’s effort to thwart HKTV smacks of politics

Source:  SCMP

What is really going on over the government's seemingly remorseless attempts to prevent the public from getting access to Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV)?

Let's quickly deal with the latest move to thwart HKTV, in which the administration has insisted that the company needs to apply for a television licence if it is broadcasting to more than 5,000 households.

You can be pretty sure that the bureaucrats will be able to conjure up grounds for this stipulation.

Governments are good at finding legal reasons for politically motivated decisions. And there can no longer be a scintilla of doubt that the determination to thwart HKTV is not only political but most likely emanates from instructions issued up north.

Many people, including Wong himself, are puzzled over why this largely entertainment-based channel should have found itself in the eye of a political storm.

As ever, because of the closed-box way this government operates, it is hard to be sure of the reasons. But assumptions can be made.

The most likely explanation is that when the time came for television companies to apply for free-to-air licences, Hong Kong's masters insisted that they should be granted to the two established stations that had proved their loyalty. Additional licences were given to the son of Hong Kong's richest tycoon and to Cable TV, also controlled by Beijing loyalists.

It is unlikely that Wong was seen as some kind of dangerous opponent, but Beijing does not like to take chances with the unknown, especially in the crucial area of broadcasting - or propaganda, as broadcasting is viewed through the prism of the Chinese Communist Party's considerations.

The still unexplained decision to block HKTV's free-to-air licence application released an enormous surge of public anger, and Democrats were prominent among the protesters.

It seems probable that the decision-makers in Beijing saw this as vindication for their initial opposition to the network and thus the underlings in Hong Kong were ordered to tighten the screws on HKTV.

The Broadcasting Ordinance, which is clearly not fit for purpose in the digital age, provided a tool for precisely this purpose. However, its provisions are applied selectively and this brings the rule of law into disrepute.

Lamentably, it is no defence to argue that because others are breaching the letter of the law, a company accused of doing the same thing can be excused.

So HKTV clearly has a legal problem despite Wong's confidence that he can win a court case challenging the Communications Authority's decision. But the real issue is political, and this appears to have been acknowledged by most Hong Kong people, who clearly understand that government attempts to thwart new voices in the media are part of an attempt to impose wider controls on freedom of speech.

While all this is going on, we have seen the vicious attack on the former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to.
Suspects are now being rounded up in this case, but the police chief has already announced that while the motives for the attack remain unclear, he is confident that it had nothing to do with Lau's journalistic activities.

This is a breathtaking assertion, reflecting a worrying mentality.

Meanwhile, some companies have been accused of mounting an advertising boycott campaign to try to undermine the commercial viability of critical media.

What we are seeing is a slowly unfolding attack on Hong Kong's way of life, aided by a government that claims to understand the importance of a free media while, in reality, it is leading the charge to ensure that the media is curbed.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur

Article 4 (published March 14, 2014):

Internet TV may not be enough for Ricky Wong Wai-kay, say experts

Source:  SCMP

Internet television may be the future for both Ricky Wong Wai-kay and Hong Kong's TV industry, but difficulties in translating its impact into advertising dollars mean it is not yet a viable business, industry players say.

While the entrepreneur made his first fortune from telecom and broadband internet businesses, he still needs a television service with wide penetration that can generate impact and advertising revenue, they say.

Keith Li King-wah, a council member of the Hong Kong Wireless Technology Industry Association, said the success of Netflix, an on-demand video-streaming service founded in the US, and mainland internet television services such as Sohu TV and LeTV, showed the medium's potential.

Other internet television viewing equipment, such as Apple TV and the Xiaomi set-top box, are also growing in popularity. An authorised local seller of the Xiaomi box has sold more than 10,000 in a month.

"Even those who watch TVB dramas watch them on myTV instead of the television set," Li said, referring to TVB's internet service that is also available as a smartphone app.

Li said he believed Wong, an expert in the telecom and internet business, should have incorporated all the developments in internet television into his Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV).

"But in reality, he needs a service that can penetrate households to create an impact. Those who watch [terrestrial] TV don't use the internet, and internet users don't watch [terrestrial] TV. But you need those housewives to watch the programmes and talk about it to build the momentum," he said.

"Even if you have internet TV, Borderline can never be Triumph in the Skies II."

Borderline is HKTV's crime thriller and its first episode accumulated more than 1.3 million views over the past eight months. But TVB's Triumph in the Skies II, set against the backdrop of a commercial airline, was the talk of the town last year. It recorded an average of more than two million viewers when the show was aired.

Recouping advertising dollars is the issue. Ray Wong, a member of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies' media committee and head of media agency PHD, said on average terrestrial television accounted for about 60 per cent of the budget of an advertising campaign.

"But only 15 to 20 per cent would be allocated to digital spending, and internet TV will account only for a thin slice of that pie," Wong said.

He said there was no mechanism to translate internet impact into advertising dollars. He said the recent overwhelming popularity of Korean romance My Love from the Star on the internet did not bring any advertising dollars to the online platforms.

"We hope there will be more platforms available so that we have more choices to place ads," he said. "Our existing ad rates research methods are already at their best. Advertisers want to spend money only on a medium that has a track record. But internet TV doesn't have a track record yet."

Next Media, which publishes Apple Daily newspaper and its online video Action News, might offer some clues, Li said.

The company's annual report last year said the Apple Daily mobile app topped the iTunes and Android download platforms and its internet business recorded HK$157.2 million revenue last year - a 233.1 per cent increase from the previous year.

But the segment also recorded a loss of HK$124.5 million.

"Apple Daily Action News is already the most popular but its books do not reflect that," Li said.

He said no matter what, Ricky Wong would need a terrestrial service or mobile service with high penetration. "It's like the print media and online media. You read the news online but you still need the hard copy of a newspaper to maintain the impact."

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