【明報專訊】HONG KONG TELEVISION NETWORK (HKTV) chairman Ricky Wong accused the government of discriminating against him, as a result of which his plan to launch mobile-TV services on July 1 has to be postponed indefinitely. He also accused the government of changing the rules of the game, trying to throttle HKTV's TV business "again and again", and using different standards for different people in the enforcement of policies and the law.
Yesterday, at a press conference, the Communications Authority disclosed details which show that Wong may have misled the public by telling the truth only partially. For instance, the Communications Authority said it had, at a meeting with HKTV in January this year, pointed out that HKTV's plan to use the Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast technology could exceed the scope of its mobile-TV licence since broadcasting to households could not be regarded as mobile services. It had advised HKTV to use the Digital Video Broadcasting system instead. Details of the items discussed may be found in the minutes of the meeting. Obviously, the Communications Authority's account of the matter is different from Wong's, and may be regarded as accurate since Wong did not try to contradict it.
However, while Wong's selective disclosure of information is not advisable, he cannot be said to be wrong in his row with the Communications Authority. Apparently, Wong was trying to capitalise on a grey area in the regulation of mobile TV in a bid to expand the reach of his TV services into people's homes. His argument is that HKTV's part lies only in sending out television signals, and his company should not be held responsible for the receiving tools the viewers choose to use, which may be fixed or movable. This line of argument cannot be dismissed as unreasonable.
So it appears that both Wong and the Communications Authority can claim to have the weight of reason on their sides. Clearly, government regulations have failed to keep abreast with the rapid development of communications technology. Businessmen are not to blame if they try to make use of the grey areas of the law to reap the highest possible profits.
Government sources admit that the relevant laws and regulations are outdated, and will have to be thoroughly revised. While the government is contemplating tighter regulation, care must be taken not to stifle creativity and originality, which are closely associated with communications technology, or Hong Kong's creative industry will not flourish.
Wong's attempt to exploit a legal loophole under cover of a mobile-TV licence may not be entirely defensible. However, the ban imposed on his mobile-TV business has caused a public outcry, just as the government's rejection of HKTV's free-TV licence application had stirred emotions earlier. The public has no particular love for Wong, but Wong has over the past several years worked hard against great obstacles, evidently determined to blaze a new trail in the TV business, and his declared ambition to boost Hong Kong's creative industry has struck a chord with the public. After all, Hong Kong's free-TV market, dominated as it is by one TV station, is at present as boringly bland as it is utterly disappointing. Unfortunately, neither Wong's determination nor the will of the public has been able to change HKTV's fate, which is regrettable not only for Wong, but also for the creative industry.