Yesterday (11 February) the Government announced that the Chief Executive in Council has approved proceeding with switching off analogue television services (ASO) at midnight on 30 November 2020. Hong Kong will then enter an era of full digital TV broadcasting.
According to the result of a study conducted in 2017 nearly 90 per cent (more than 2.2 million) of households in Hong Kong had already switched to DTT as of late-2017, representing a very high level of DTT penetration, while about 180.000 households were still receiving analogue TV broadcasting.
The government claims that for most Hong Kong residents their access to free TV services would not be disrupted after the ASO. The remaining analogue TV users are encouraged to get prepared in the coming 21 months or so. To access to DTT services they can switch to a digital TV set, or add a set-top box if their old TV set is still functioning well.
However, this raises many problems for those of us who live in the Country Parks. Looking at the coverage maps of DTT virtually the whole of Sai Kung East and West CPs north of Tai Mong Tsai will have no access to DTT and will need to rely on cabled VOIP services, such as NOW TV. While it’s true that many villages currently cannot receive any free-to-air (FTA) services and rely on the NOW TV monopoly, many can still receive FTA signals; these are the ones at risk. The lack of FTA services also has a cost in terms of rental as well as access to many free digital channels that NOW TV refuse to broadcast on their network.
In many other countries it is a legal requirement for all cabled tv services to offer all the FTA channels as well as those channels provided by the cable company. That is not applicable in Hong Kong even though many people have been trying to get the ordinance changed. Many years ago it seems that TVB and ATV refused to let their FTA channels be rebroadcast by cabled tv providers, a situation that still reverberates through the system, even though ATV has gone and the programmes on TVB, especially on the so-called English channel, are not worth watching.
When BUZZ first posed this question to government some years ago, when they were discussing the DTT implementation, we were told that residents can still access these channels via the internet – totally ignoring the depressingly slow broadband speed and intermittent mobile phone signals that many of us have to suffer, effectively making this option unavailable. And why be forced to watch a 4K UHD tv programme on a mobile handset anyway?
BUZZ will be talking to district councillors, legislators and the various government departments, to see how this situation can be resolved.
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