The Hong Kong authorities awarded five pay-TV licences yesterday in a long-awaited move to open the local subscription television market to competition.

One of the licences went to Elmsdale, which is 90% owned by UK video-on-demand operator Yes Television and 10% owned by Hong Kong's Shaw Media. Another went to Star TV's digital subsidiary Hong Kong DTV giving the Rupert Murdoch-owned platform its first opportunity to charge for its services in Hong Kong.

The other companies to win licences are Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting, a subsidiary of local free-to-air broadcaster TVB, mainland China communications company Hong Kong Network TV and Pacific Digital Media (HK), a local subsidiary of the Taiwanese-based company.

I-Cable Communications, spun off from Wharf Holdings in November last year, has enjoyed a monopoly in Hong Kong's pay-TV sector since 1993.

The Hong Kong government was accused of "bending the rules" in awarding the licence to Galaxy. Critics say TVB should have been disqualified under Hong Kong's broadcasting regulations, because it already holds a commercial TV licence. The Broadcasting Bill was passed to promote diversity in the local television market.