RTHK to officially end digital radio broadcasting after Hong Kong axes service


Public broadcaster RTHK will officially end Hong Kong’s remaining digital radio services next month, after the government decided in March to shut down the service altogether.

The broadcaster’s digital audio broadcasting (DAB) services will end on September 3 at midnight. Its analogue radio service will be maintained.

This came after Chinese broadcaster Phoenix shut down its URadio DAB service last year, as well as shutting down digital services from Hong Kong’s DBC and Metro Broadcast Corporation.

Website of an RTHK digital audio broadcasting channel. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The Donald Tsang administration introduced a DAB policy in 2010 in order to “respond to the interest of the local market at the time for the development of services and to cope with the trend of the development of broadcasting technology in the world” .

DAB services offer better audio quality, more stations and have allowed other jurisdictions to free up analog radio wavelengths.

The government granted licenses in March 2011 to three commercial operators: URadio, DBC and Metro, while five DAB channels were awarded to RTHK.

A promotional event for RTHK’s digital audio broadcasting services in 2012. Photo: RTHK.

Former DBC chief executive Stephen Loh said the government had failed to help drivers install digital radio in their vehicles.

He also said that tunnels, public housing estates and MTR trains were not fully covered by the digital radio signal. Poor coverage meant broadcasters struggled to compete.

On March 28 of this year, the government decided that DAB services would finally be phased out within six months, after considering a failed policy review.

“We have always maintained this approach. The same approach is used in making the decision to discontinue DAB services in Hong Kong, ”a spokesperson for the Bureau of Trade and Economic Development said in a March press release.

Then-Chief Secretary Carrie Lam at the launch ceremony for RTHK’s “2012 Digital Audio Broadcasting New Era”. Photo: Government of Hong Kong.

“However, the withdrawal of the three commercial DAB operators in a short time due to operational difficulties and the lack of a critical mass of audiences demonstrated the exhaustion of interest in the services,” the statement said. .

“Regarding the future of the DAB services provided by RTHK, the review pointed out that in the absence of participation of commercial operators, it would not be politically realistic to rely solely on RTHK for operate alone on the DAB platform, or to instruct RTHK to develop a critical mass of audiences on its own.

The government’s review also indicated that the rapid development of the Internet and mobile applications has to some extent replaced traditional audio streaming services.

Although it is difficult to apply for a government license to officially operate a radio station, more than a dozen online radio channels have been launched in Hong Kong. No license is required to operate a station online.

“The wider environment is not conducive to a revival of the DAB market,” the press release said.

Also on Friday, RTHK announced it was ending its 24-hour BBC World Service relay, replacing it with a Mandarin-language news service.


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