News Corp-owned broadcaster Star TV is setting up a Chinese Programming Department through which $64m (HK$500m) will be invested in Chinese-language film and television productions, some of which will be aimed at the international market.

Veteran Hong Kong TV producer Michael Mak will head the department which represents a significant expansion of Star's activities and coincides with the appointment of James Murdoch as chairman and CEO of the company.

Star vice president Steve Askew said the company has already produced "thousands of hours" of Chinese-language programming and has an extensive library of Chinese movies. "We're now putting an umbrella over it," Askew said.

Cheung Chi-sing, Fruit Chan and Lawrence Ah Mon are among the top Chinese directors who are lined up to direct movies for Star. The Hong Kong-based broadcaster is also planning to step up Hindi-language production through its Indian subsidiary, partly in partnership with Indian broadcaster UTV.

Meanwhile Star said it plans to file an application for its own pay-TV licence for Hong Kong after dissolving a joint pay-TV and Internet venture with Cable & Wireless HKT (Screendaily, June 2). Star TV cited lack of subscriber growth and C&W HKT's high operating costs as reasons for ending the proposed venture.