IT Voice IT 呼聲通訊 | IT Voice Newsletter
2016.04


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ATV’S EMBARASSING DEMISE SPELLS THE END OF RESTRICTIVE BROADCASTING IN HONG KONG
 
By: William Kwan
IT Voice Member
IT Quality Engineer

On April 1, the beleaguered Asia Television Limited (ATV) finally ended its 58 years of broadcasting service and it would probably be best remembered for its ill fame during the latter years. The broadcaster’s closure has not only signaled the SAR government’s failure to try keeping a struggling player afloat by playing favoritism. It has also become obvious that the authorities have gone back on their words which initially promised a no-quota policy on the number of free-to-air TV licensees to be granted.

ATV’s operation history had been a negative example for the society. Its demise also offers an opportunity for a rethink of the policy towards the city’s electronic media on the government’s part, and the way forward for the industry for those in the business.

No alternative for TV viewers in Hong Kong

Hongkongers have long been offered only two options - TVB (Television Broadcasting Limited) and ATV. Among the two, TVB has always been “popular” and it is almost synonymous with Hong Kong’s TV scene. Even the addition of three paid TV stations some years ago have failed to end TVB’s monopoly. As a result, the quality of TV programs continues to deteriorate due to the lack of competition.

In 2009, the SAR government announced it would grant more free-to-air TV licenses. Among the license applicants, Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) made a bold move to invest heavily in the production of its own TV drama series which received acclaims upon premiere on the Internet. But in a highly unpopular move, the government in 2013 finally decided to reject HKTV’s bid for a free-to-air TV license. Tens of thousands in the aftermath took to the street to protest against the government’s decision which was another example of bad governance. As of today, TVB’s monopoly has yet to be broken with only one of the two successful free-to-air TV license applicants just started its limited broadcasting service.

Internet broadcasting fast rising above chaos

Hongkongers have long been left with the impression that the city’s Internet broadcasting has been the turf of political radicals who have no qualms about hurling insults and using vulgarities in their tirades of political foes during airtime. But the situation has changed since 2011 when the Digital Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) started its radio service with the help of a team of media veterans who used to work for the city’s mainstream news outlets, and by doing so, has introduced a more sustainable model of Internet radio service to Hong Kong.

Concurrent with such development, in a bid to cater for the evolving needs of TV audience who no longer centers their lives on the TV program timetable, free-to-air TV stations have also begun to upload a greater proportion of their programs online for audience to view on demand or watch live broadcasts on the Internet. Some free-to-air TV stations have even started to adapt themselves to the age of Internet by uploading some of their programs on Youtube in an attempt to broaden their reach. In terms of variety of the content of TV programs, small-scale Internet TV stations are already producing programs that serve not only the masses. All these developments suggest that the Internet TV broadcasting scene is set to be more diversified than ever in terms of content.

TV broadcasting - going mobile, more Internet-based and niche focused

The reason why Internet-based broadcasting has yet to replace the traditional terrestrial broadcasting is mainly because the speed of the former in the past had yet to prove satisfactory. But now that the technical difficulty has mostly been overcome, coupled with its ease of access on mobile devices, one can expect a web-based television broadcasting is the way forward. Smartphones, instead of the TV set, will be the device of choice for the majority.

One can also expect TV in the future will become more niche-friendly, thanks to the nature of web-based broadcasting which makes it easier than ever to gather the like-minded. The content available in the future will be unimaginable to those of us who are used to what TV broadcasters now have to offer.

Hong Kong has all it takes to serve the ethnic Chinese audience all over the world with its unique edge of having experienced and creative talents in TV production, free flow of information and its position as a traditional cultural powerhouse in the Chinese-speaking world.

While it is taking the SAR government several years just to complete its review of free-to-air license approvals, Internet-based broadcasters from overseas filling the void and get a head start to offer TV viewers in Hong Kong their programs. More web-based broadcasters too are likely to crop up in the near future due to the low entry barrier of starting an Internet TV broadcasting platform.

With the fall of ATV and the TVB’s continued disappointment, web-based television is where the future lies.
 
 
 
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