PictureOver the past year, the broadcasting sector in Hong Kong has continued to grow and develop in tandem with worldwide trends of digitization and convergence. I am pleased that the Broadcasting Authority has been able to facilitate this process by providing a level playing field and regulatory environment for broadcasters in Hong Kong.

A Vibrant Broadcasting Sector

Domestic Free Television Programme Services

2006 marked a significant milestone in the development of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in Hong Kong. We approved the programme investment plans submitted the previous year by Asia Television Limited (ATV) and Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB). Under those investment plans, each of ATV and TVB is committed to investing more than $400 million for DTT in-station facilities and programming in addition to their original six-year plans. Following our approval, each licensee is actively preparing to launch DTT services by end of 2007 in accordance with the Government's implementation framework for DTT broadcasting promulgated in July 2004. TVB will begin conversion to high definition television (HDTV) production by deploying in its drama studios HDTV equipment beginning in late 2006/early 2007. ATV plans to relocate in early 2007 to new headquarters in Tai Po, the same being equipped with digital production facilities.

We are delighted to learn that the licensees will, aside from commencing to simulcast existing terrestrial television services in both analogue and digital format in 2007, also launch new digital services. ATV plans to launch four new standard definition television channels (respectively trendy culture, news and finance, shopping information, and showbiz news) and provide no fewer than 14 hours of HDTV programmes per week during prime time. TVB will provide an HDTV channel with no fewer than 14 hours per week of programmes originally produced in HDTV format.

We are well aware, however, that DTT cannot be launched successfully in Hong Kong without the support of our television audience. To facilitate the public in switching to digital, the Government has set up working groups with ATV and TVB to ensure the timely and smooth launching of digital television in Hong Kong by 2007. These working groups, led by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA), will work with ATV and TVB to resolve technical issues relating to the transmission and reception of DTT and facilitate inter-departmental coordination to ensure the successful migration from analogue to digital television at different stages.

We look forward to a new era of television broadcasting which will be even more momentous than the transition a generation ago from black-and-white to colour television. In the new DTT environment, viewers will be able to enjoy high definition, multi-channel, interactive services on a free-to-air television platform.

Domestic Pay Television Programme Services

Over the past year, the domestic pay television market has continued to grow in market penetration and programme variety. The aggregate number of subscribers to licensed pay television services increased 25% from 1,220,000 to 1,530,000. The total number of pay television channels grew by 15% from 207 to 239. We are pleased to note that our technology-neutral regulatory regime and light-handed regulatory approach have encouraged innovation and creativity in the provisioning of television services. We are proud to say that pay television licensees in Hong Kong are more willing to employ all available state-of-the-art transmission technologies to provide their services as compared to their counterparts elsewhere. These include hybrid fibre coaxial, satellite, microwave multipoint distribution system and Internet Protocol television on a broadband network. Licensees also partner with 3G mobile service providers to deliver television programmes. To provide high quality pictures to the viewers, one licensee plans to launch HDTV in 2007.


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