LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 937/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/5/96

Bills Committee on Television (Amendment) Bill 1996

Minutes of the Meeting
held on Thursday, 19 December 1996 at 4:30 pm
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Members Absent :

    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo (Chairman)
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr CHAU Tak-hay
Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport
Mrs Rita LAU
Deputy Secretary (Broadcasting and Entertainment)
Miss Eliza YAU
Principal Assistant Secretary (Broadcasting) (Acting)
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Connie FUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 3
Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Election of Chairman

Messrs Andrew CHENG and Albert CHAN were elected Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively. As the Chairman was not available for the meeting due to other commitments, the Deputy Chairman took the chair of the meeting.

II. Briefing by the Administration

(LegCo Brief on the Bill ref. BCSB(CR) 9/19/5(96)Pt.2 issued by the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Branch on 6 November 1996)

2. Representatives of the Administration presented the main provisions of the Television (Amendment) Bill 1996. They pointed out that, according to the existing licence under the Telecommunication Ordinance (Cap. 106), the four Fixed Telecommunications Network Services (FTNS) licensees already had the right to provide point-to-point services which also included video-on-demand (VOD). The Government was keen to facilitate the technological application of VOD but believed that the provision of programme service comprising films and television programmes should be regulated, in the same way as television services. As an FTNS licensee had proposed to launch, in July 1997, such a VOD programme service, the Government put forward the Bill which sought to put in place a regulatory framework for these services; and aimed to have it enacted in the first quarter of 1997 with a view to issuing not more than two VOD programme service licences before July 1997. In response to a member’s enquiry, representatives of the Administration said that VOD programme services had not been tried commercially anywhere in the world. Thus, there was no regulatory experience to borrow.

3. Regarding clause 3(1)(b) which extended the definition of "disqualified person" to include a company which published a local newspaper or exercised control of such a company, the Administration proposed to exempt newspaper publishers who were already exercising control of a television broadcasting licensee before 22 March 1996 (the day after the policy was announced). In this connection, the Administration would put forward a Committee stage amendment to refine the drafting of the definition of "disqualified person" in relation to such an exemption.


Scope of the proposed regulatory framework for VOD programme services

4. On the scope of the proposed regulatory framework for VOD programme services, representatives of the Administration said that the proposed regulatory framework covered the provision of a programme service, i.e., the provision for transmission of television programmes (essentially the type of programmes that were being broadcast currently by the off-air and pay TV broadcasters) on a point-to-point basis and on the payment of a subscription. Schedule 1A of the Bill listed services which were not to be considered as programme services, including video telephony, transactional services, the actual carriage of programme services, and services covered by a number of other licences under the Telecommunication Ordinance. Schedule 1C of the Bill specified materials which were not considered to be television programmes, such as materials which were predominantly text or data, computer graphics and videogames. In reply to a member’s enquiry, representatives of the Administration pointed out that Wharf Cable’s Cineplex broadcast at regular intervals on a point-to-multipoint basis was not a VOD programme service which was provided at any time on a point-to-point basis and at the request of the viewer.

VOD and Internet

5. In response to a member’s concern on the replacement of VOD by the Internet, the Administration said that the substantial investment in VOD by an FTNS licensee was an indicator that VOD would not be outdated in the very near future. On-line information services currently available on the Internet, including the provision of video programmes on the Internet, would be excluded from the proposed regulatory framework. However, the current mode and speed of transmission in the Internet, i.e. via telephone lines and modems (commonly used models at a speed of 28,800 bytes per second), incurred much waiting time for downloading information (not to mention the long time required for downloading bulky files containing television programmes such as movies); and presented difficulties in real time broadcast. Broadband network was a technical requirement for programme services similar to those of VOD to be available on the Internet. The Administration stressed that VOD programme services would be included in the review of the television environment to be conducted in 1998.

Public consultation

6. Representatives of the Administration said that a public consultation paper on the regulation of VOD services was issued in February 1996 (which concluded in March 1996) and members were briefed on the response to the public consultation exercise at the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Panel (then called Recreation and Culture Panel) meeting held on 25 April 1996. The Administration had given careful consideration to the points made by legislators, the industry and other interested members of the public before reaching its decisions on, inter alia, VOD regulation which was summarised in separate letters that the Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport sent to all LegCo Members on 2 July 1996.

7. On the question of consultation with the industry, representatives of the Administration pointed out that the Hong Kong Telecom IMS accepted the proposed regulatory framework for VOD programme services as an interim measure, as did New World Telephone Limited, on the understanding that it would be reviewed in 1998. Asia Television Limited, Television Broadcasts Limited and Wharf Cable had not objected to the proposed framework. Internet service providers, whose service was not regulated at present and would not fall within the proposed framework, had been consulted but had not objected to the proposed framework.

III. Way forward

8. Members agreed to schedule the next two meetings as follows -

Date TimeVenue Purpose
13 January 1997
2:30 pm Conference Room B To meet deputations from the industry
20 January 1997
2:30 pmConference Room B To continue discussion with the Administration

Representatives of the Administration, including the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Branch and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority, were invited to attend these meetings. Members noted that extracts of the Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Panel (then called Recreation and Culture Panel) meetings which discussed, inter alia, the issue of VOD programme services had been circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No.CB(2)664/96-97. Extracts of the Official Record of Proceedings of the LegCo sitting(s) on the issue would also be useful reference .

(Post-meeting note: Members were informed of the relevant pages of the Official Record of Proceedings of the LegCo sitting held on 8 May 1996 (of which every LegCo Member had a copy) vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 887/96-97.)


9. The meeting ended at 5:25 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
13 January 1997

Last Updated on 15 October 1997