Wednesday, March 12, 2014

News Articles: Updates on latest HKTV mobile TV issue

Since the news about HKTV's latest mobile TV issue broke yesterday, there have been alot of follow up reports in subsequent days.  The issue is actually more complicated than imagined because now it turns out that the laws aren't clear and there's no way to prove either side is right or wrong.  

The issue is definitely confusing, as the Communications Authority held a press conference to 'refute' Ricky Wong's claims and not long after that, Ricky Wong held yet another press conference responding to the CA's accusations.  It's getting to the point of 'ridiculous' now...

Anyway, below are a few articles that might help to clarify the issue...I'm sure there will be further developments on this in the coming days, so stay tuned!

Article 1 (published March 13, 2014):

Ricky Wong's plans for mobile TV hangs on legal grey area

Source:  SCMP

Laws that govern traditional and new media by different standards leave Ricky Wong Wai-kay's plan for a court challenge to the government's rejection of his mobile television service hanging in the balance, legal experts say.

The laws contain "grey areas" and are outdated, they say.

At issue is Wong's plan to use a higher-quality format known as DTMB for his Hong Kong Television Network service instead of the lower-definition CMMB used by China Mobile from whom Wong acquired the licence.

The Communications Authority said this would in effect allow Wong's mobile broadcast to be viewable by households using traditional television sets.

This is because TVB and ATV, the two free-to-air broadcasters, are also using DTMB.

A key question is whether mobile television is covered by the Broadcasting Ordinance or the Telecommunications Ordinance. The government's view is that a service falls under the latter if it can reach more than 5,000 households.

The authority said Wong - who planned the service after being denied a new free-to-air licence - would need a licence for either a free or paid service.

Wong said on Tuesday he would seek a judicial review.

Information Technology Federation honorary president Francis Fong Po-kiu said yesterday it was unclear who would win because the issue - whether DTMB could be applied to mobile television without further restrictions - had no precedent.

Institution of Engineer member Henry Cheung Nin-sang, said it was wrong for the government to equate the mode with viewing quality as a number of factors could affect the final quality.

The authority also drew ire for apparently infringing the government's "technology-neutral" principle by referring to a particular technical mode.

"The authority's explanation has per se deviated from the technology-neutral principle," information-technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said. "It failed to explain which aspect of the DTMB technology, or its usage, was in conflict with the policy concerning mobile TV."

Professor Anthony Fung Ying-him, director of journalism and communications at the Chinese University, said the authority's stance on the HKTV row "violates in all respects" the neutrality principle.

"Only mobile TV is being targeted now, but the restriction is not equally applied to internet and broadband television services," he said.

Wong said his understanding was that as long as the receiving tool - like a USB device or anything movable rather than fixed - was mobile, the service was classified as mobile television.

Strengths and weaknesses

Ricky Wong Wai-kay's proposal to use Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) for HKTV's mobile television service was rejected by the Communications Authority. It proposed China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) or Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H).

Here is an explanation of the differences provided by the watchdog:


Usage: Terrestrial and mobile television

Resolution: Up to high definition 1080i

Watching programmes: Up to two million households can watch digital television by tuning in without having to buy new receivers. Alternatively, they can watch the programmes on their mobile phones connected to receivers

Strength and weakness: High video quality at fixed locations, low mobility - services prone to interruptions during commutate


Usage: Mobile television

Resolution: Low definition of 320i

Watching programmes: On mobile phones, some of which may have to be connected to receivers.

Strength and weakness: High mobility, low quality


Usage: Mobile televisions

Resolution: Up to 1080i

Watching programmes: On mobile phones or televisions, some of which may have to be connected to receivers

Strength and weakness: High video quality, but users must buy new receivers


How the government has defined mobile television services under the law over the past few years:

February 2007 The then Broadcasting Authority (now Office of the Communications Authority) decides that mobile television services need not be licensed under the Broadcasting Ordinance when it rules that an appeal of a complaint against four 3G mobile-service operators for offering the services without licences was unjustified

December 2008 The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau suggests separating licensing regimes for regulating "conveyance" and "content" of mobile television services, and for the services to require a unified carrier licence issued under the Telecommunications Ordinance

February 2010 The government announces that licensing arrangements for broadcast-type mobile television services will come under the Telecommunications Ordinance. Service operators have to offer coverage for 50 per cent of the population within 18 months of the licence being granted. The government says it will adopt a market-led, technology-neutral approach, allowing the market to select technical standards for such services

February 2010 The then Office of the Telecommunications Authority (now Office of the Communications Authority) states in the information memorandum for the auction of radio spectrum for the provision of broadcast-type mobile television services that the licensee will be free to adopt any widely recognised standard for the services

June 2010 China Mobile Hong Kong wins the bid for the 15-year unified carrier licence of the radio spectrum for mobile television services with its CMMB standard at the cost of HK$175 million

December 2013 HKTV announces its HK$142 million acquisition of China Mobile Hong Kong's unified carrier licence, which will allow it to offer mobile television services. HKTV announces it will launch its internet television services from July 2014

January 2014 HKTV informs telecommunications watchdog Ofca that it will upgrade the CMMB standard to DTMB

January 2014 Ofca says it has reminded HKTV that its upgrade plan may violate the Broadcasting Ordinance

March 2014 HKTV receives Ofca's legal letter saying that it has to have a free-to-air or pay-TV licence if its mobile television service is made available to more than 5,000 households

March 2014 HKTV halts its plans to launch its mobile television services in July and suspends the shooting of all new television programmes

Article 2 (published March 12, 2014):

Ricky Wong warned two months ago about plans to upgrade mobile TV service

Source:  SCMP

The government hit back yesterday at Ricky Wong Wai-kay's allegations that was it deliberately blocking him from launching his television business.

It said Wong's current plan for his HKTV mobile television service would breach the law without a licence.

Free-to-air leader TVB also stepped into the row, accusing Wong of reinventing HKTV as "de facto domestic free TV without a licence" by upgrading its broadcasting standards.

Wong, who was told on Tuesday that he must not launch a mobile TV service if he did not change his plan, denied his service was free TV in disguise.

Eliza Lee Man-ching, director-general of communications in the Office of the Communications Authority, said the office contacted HKTV in January after learning of its intention to upgrade its transmission standard from China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB ) to the much finer Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB). On January 24, it gave a "friendly reminder" the change might make the station liable to the Broadcasting Ordinance.

"If HKTV adopted the DTMB standard, more than two million households would be able to watch its programmes on TV at home," deputy director-general of telecommunications Danny Lau Kwong-cheung said.

The number would exceed 5,000 households, a threshold which triggers the licensing requirement. No external receiver was needed to watch DTMB transmissions, he added.

TVB said it used DTMB, which covered 99 per cent of the population, as the transmission standard for its five digital terrestrial television channels.

HKTV's plan to use the same standard and become a "de facto" free service was the reason it terminated Wong's lease of TVB's hilltop transmission sites.

"We may also be legally liable if the unlawful broadcast is transmitted from our hilltop sites," a spokesman said.

Government sources said the Broadcasting Ordinance and Telecommunications Ordinance - attacked by legal experts for being outdated and leaving "grey areas" - would be reviewed.

The sources refused to comment on whether the government had assessed the extent of public anger over its denial of a new free-to-air licence to Wong, after which he launched his plan for a mobile service.

"We regret that this has interrupted [Wong's] plan, but we did not target Wong or anyone," one senior government source said. "We too want him to succeed. But there is a legal issue here."

HKTV chairman Wong had hoped to make a comeback with a mobile service through the HK$142 million acquisition of mobile TV licensee China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation.

The authority suggested HKTV adopt another transmission standard, but Wong questioned whether he would fall into a legal trap if future TV sets were upgraded to receive other signals without any external devices.

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said the government owed the public an explanation for blocking HKTV.

HKTV shares, suspended on Tuesday, resumed trading yesterday. Prices fell by 22 per cent.

Article 3 (published March 12, 2014):

Move for license law review may be on way

Source:  The Standard

Lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, who was the first to draw attention to the 5,000 household limit, says he may raise a motion in the Legislative Council for a review of the Broadcasting Ordinance before the next issue of TV licenses.

But Tse said as it stands, the law does apply to HKTV's intention to provide TV services for households.

It is the second time Tse has been involved in an HKTV controversy, the first being in November last year when he changed his position from supporting the powers and privileges motion to probe the government's decision on free TV licenses to abstaining when the vote was taken.

Tse raised the question whether HKTV would breach the Broadcasting Ordinance during a Legislative Council panel meeting on Monday.

He said the ordinance made it clear that any television program service which is intended or available for reception by an audience of more than 5,000 specified premises should obtain a free-to-air television license.

"The main point is `intended or available for reception.' The subsidiary of China Mobile's service aimed at those who used portable digital services and not home television," Tse said.

"HKTV made it clear it was its intention to `go into your home,"' he said.

When asked whether the ordinance was outdated, Tse said he may raise a motion in the Legco to review the ordinance which can be applied in the next free license renewal.

"It would be good if there are more choices of TV for the public. HKTV can study any cooperation opportunities with the other two free TV stations," he said.

The other two stations are TVB and ATV, whose licenses expire in 2015.

Public consultation is ongoing for the license renewal of both existing free TV stations.

In Monday's panel meeting, director-general of communications Eliza Lee Man-ching told Tse that HKTV was reminded that it had to obtain a free TV license if there are more than 5,000 reception points.

Anthony Fung Ying-him, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication of Chinese University, said it was inappropriate to apply the Broadcasting Ordinance that regulates television to restrict a mobile TV service.

Article 4 (published March 12, 2014):

HKTV boss faces roadblock over plans for mobile TV

Source:  SCMP

Failure to integrate broadcasting and telecommunications laws in line with technological advances has further obstructed efforts by HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay to launch his television service, critics say.

Wong, denied a free-to-air licence last year while two other applicants were approved, had planned to launch a mobile service through his recently acquired China Mobile Hong Kong.

But the Office of the Communications Authority has demanded he apply for a free-to-air or pay-TV licence if he can't guarantee his mobile service will reach fewer than 5,000 households.

Wong said mobile TV had not been subject to the Broadcasting Ordinance in the past.

While he refused to speculate on whether there were political reasons behind the action, he said he could not understand the rationale behind the change.

He said he had obtained the mobile TV licence through the acquisition of China Mobile Hong Kong last year. "They were able to cover 90 per cent [of the city's population]. Why weren't they required to apply for a free-to-air or pay-TV licence?"

HKTV has obtained a unified carrier licence, a form of telecommunications licence, for its programmes. Its content is subject to regulation by general laws but not the Broadcasting Ordinance.

Similarly, the acquisition of the mobile TV licence from China Mobile's Hong Kong unit was subject to the Telecommunications Ordinance merger and acquisition rules, not those of the Broadcasting Ordinance.

The OCA said last night that it had made the requirement because different transmission standards had been adopted. It said mobile TV operators could only offer coverage at moving locations, not households.

Information-technology lawmaker Charles Mok said the reason the government had suddenly decided to invoke the Broadcasting Ordinance was Wong's plan to use set-top boxes to allow households to watch mobile TV programmes at home.

"Under existing regulations, it wouldn't be a problem to plug receivers into mobile phones or transmit the programmes through the internet. That's why China Mobile didn't come across any problems in the past," Mok said. "But what Wong now proposes is something China Mobile didn't do before - to plug receivers into TV sets directly."

Anthony Fung Ying-him, the head of Chinese University's journalism and communication school, said: "Around the world, governments are working to encourage the convergence of different media … On the mainland, telecom signals would turn into TV signals when a user with a mobile phone walks towards a TV.

"They are not using a law, but a very technical requirement - of 5,000 specified premises - to put a stop to Wong's plan."

The government has agreed in principle to grant free-to-air licences to Cable TV and Now TV, with the details to be negotiated.

"By treating Wong differently, the government is giving a very bad impression," Fung said. "It has turned Hong Kong into a city of unfair competition."

Lawmaker Claudia Mo said: "HKTV has had that licence for months, but the authorities didn't give it any warning about possible breaches. It just seems like the government is trying to find anything to ruin HKTV."


Then City Telecom (CTI) chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay prepares to launch internet-based pay-TV services under CTI's internet business unit - Hong Kong Broadband Network - after the government says there is no need for a broadcasting licence because the company's pay-TV service is based on an open internet platform

Wong is named ATV chief executive officer; he steps down after just 12 days

CTI applies for a free-to-air television licence

CTI invests HK$600 million in a plan to build a television and multimedia production centre in Tseung Kwan O

APRIL 2012
CTI, focused on entering the free-to-air television market, agrees to sell its telecommunications assets for HK$5.01 billion to a company backed by British buyout firm CVC Capital Partners

CTI changes its name to Hong Kong Television Network, and its new station is named HKTV

HKTV loses its bid for a free-to-air licence, sparking a public outcry. Wong announces a plan to axe 320 HKTV employees.

Wong says HKTV will press ahead with its broadcasting plans by launching internet television services from July 2014, and promises to rehire those he retrenched. He unveils his plan after the company's HK$142 million acquisition of China Mobile Hong Kong, a subsidiary of state-owned China Mobile, which has a unified carrier licence that allows it to offer mobile television services through its broadcast spectrum

China Mobile investigates the HK$142 million deal, saying it might have violated mainland rules. Wong applies for a judicial review against the government's rejection of his free-to-air licence application. Existing free-to-air broadcaster TVB announces a plan to end the lease of six transmission stations to China Mobile Hong Kong by July 6, putting HKTV's internet television plans in jeopardy.

MARCH 2014
HKTV says it will halt plans to launch its digital television services in July and suspend the filming of all new television programmes


  1. This is just sickening and wrong there's no doubt that the government is in alliance with certain people and is out to get HKTV!

    1. @sport3888: doubt about it indeed! But since they're government, there's only so much that can be done...unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, HKTV is pretty much doomed.

      I feel most sorry for the artists though -- all they want to do is make a living doing something they love and at the same time be respected like a human being...I guess that's not allowed anymore in today's society...