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TV shake up as government pulls the plug on ATV

The government will set up a task force to mitigate the fallout from yesterday’s decision not to renew ATV’s broadcast license.

Secretary for commerce and economic development Gregory So, the minister in charge of broadcasting, yesterday announced that the Chief Executive (CE) Council would not renew ATV’s broadcast license, saying ATV had failed to provide a sustainable business plan.

A legal requirement of 12 months notice has been handed to ATV, allowing the broadcaster to operate until 1 April 2016.

It follows a wild week for Hong Kong’s TV market after ATV’s largest stakeholder Ben Koon Wong and major investor Ching Wong said they had sold a controlling stake to HKTV boss Rocky Wong (pictured). Wong was quick to deny the reports.

“Over the past few months, the government has been acutely aware of the developments surrounding ATV,” So said.

But he said the CE Council was not satisfied that a sufficient case had been put forward to justify any further extension of its broadcast license.

“This is the first time in the local broadcasting history that an incumbent’s broadcasting licence is not renewed,” So added.

At the press conference yesterday, So announced that the government had decided to formally grant a free TV licence to HKTVE, an initiative backed by PCCW.

HKTVE’s licence will be valid from today for 12 years until March 31, 2027, subject to a mid-term review in 2021.

“We hope that HKTVE’s entry into the free TV market will benefit our audience-at-large with more quality programming choices,” So said.

HKTVE’s free TV service will be delivered via fixed network. Its integrated Cantonese channel and integrated English channel will commence within 12 months and 24 months respectively after the grant of licence.

The Cantonese channel will provide round-the-clock service, while the English channel will broadcast a total of 16 hours of television programmes with two loops of eight hours each.

“We welcome the Government’s grant of the Domestic Free Television Programme Service License (“Free TV license”) to HK Television Entertainment Company Limited,” a PCCW statement said.

“We hope the Government will accelerate its decision on spectrum re-allocation and enable HKTVE to use broadcast spectrum. We believe it would be in the public interest that the Government open up the spectrum as soon as possible, so that our Free TV service can reach a wider audience sooner.”

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