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Communications Authority proposes to suspend DBC's licence

The following is issued on behalf of the Communications Authority:

     The Communications Authority (CA) has decided to consider initiating the procedure to suspend the sound broadcasting licence of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited (DBC) for a period of 30 days as a sanction for the breaches by DBC of its licence arising from the disruptions to/cessation of its broadcasting service from October 21, 2012, onwards.

     Under its licence, DBC is required to broadcast each day seven 24-hour sound broadcasting service channels of specified genres, announcements in the public interest and a specified number of hours of non-Cantonese programmes. It is also required to provide a specified number of hours of first-run and repeated programmes in accordance with the proposal it submitted when applying for the licence.

     From 11.30pm on October 21, 2012, to midnight on October 31, 2012, DBC broadcast only music and re-runs, and from midnight on October 31, 2012, DBC ceased to provide service altogether. Having considered the circumstances of the case and the representations of DBC, the CA decided that the service disruptions/cessation of DBC in the period concerned amounted to a contravention of a serious nature of its licence and that a sanction that is commensurate with the severity, nature and duration of the breach should be imposed.

     The range of sanctions that may be imposed by the CA against a contravention includes administrative sanctions (i.e. advice and warning), financial penalty and, in case of a most serious breach, a suspension of licence. The powers to revoke a licence rest with the Chief Executive in Council.

     On the sanction to be imposed on DBC, the CA considered that the radio frequency spectrum assigned to DBC for the provision of digital audio broadcasting service was a scarce and valuable public resource. DBC had a fundamental obligation to provide service in accordance with the licence conditions and ensure a proper use of the assigned spectrum to provide an adequate and comprehensive service responsive to the diverse needs of the community. DBC had failed this obligation entirely. Also, the CA noted that this was not the first time that DBC had ceased providing service in accordance with its commitments in its licence. It had earlier ceased service from October 10 to 15, 2012, and a financial penalty of $80,000 had been imposed on it for the breach. The present breaches, which involved a complete service cessation lasting for more than six weeks and continuing, were much more severe in nature and in its impact on the listening public than DBC's earlier service cessation. The CA considered that despite the shareholders' dispute, it was incumbent upon DBC to resolve its financial predicament early in order to resume normal service as soon as possible. Nearly two months had passed since the service disruptions/cessation on October 21, 2012, but DBC was still not able to commit itself to resumption of its service by a definite deadline. Having considered the severity, nature and duration of the breaches and representations made by DBC, the CA decided that DBC's licence should be suspended for a period of 30 days. This is the most serious sanction that the CA could impose on a sound broadcasting licensee under the existing licensing framework.

     In accordance with DBC's licence, the CA is inviting DBC to make representations on the proposed suspension of its licence in 28 days. The CA has clearly communicated to DBC that the proposed suspension of the licence is a sanction imposed on it having regard to the severity of its contraventions of the licence, and is by no means a temporary relief of DBC's licence obligations. Despite the consideration of suspension of the licence by the CA, DBC should as soon as possible resolve its financial problem and resume a full-fledged service at the earliest possible time, and in any event before the expiry of the proposed suspension period. In the event that DBC is able to resume its broadcasting service any time before or during the licence suspension period, the CA would consider whether an alternative sanction should be imposed in lieu of licence suspension.

Ends/Monday, December 17, 2012
Issued at HKT 18:20


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