H.K.'s i-Cable launches record label

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HONG KONG -- Hong Kong company i-Cable Communications launched a record label this week in an attempt to break the near small screen monopoly that free-to-air broadcaster TVB holds over the artists of the vibrant local pop music industry.

I-Cable's new record label, i-Cable Music Project, will recruit and train new singing talent and will house recording and promotion departments, a company spokesperson said in an interview Thursday.

The move hopes to attract the artists that make music programs and concerts among the most popular TV shows in Hong Kong.

The record label is set to face stiff resistance from TVB, founded by Sir Run Run Shaw, broadcaster of one of Hong Kong's top music award programs, Jade Solid Gold. JSG was watched by 83% of Hong Kong viewers last year, TVB data shows.

TVB agreements with local record labels for exclusive coverage of their artists have long disadvantaged other broadcasters, including i-Cable's Cable TV, who wish to capitalize on the in-house music programs and variety shows that are a stable of Hong Kong television broadcasts.

TVB-contracted pop stars are allowed to appear on rival TV channels on the condition they do not speak Cantonese, Hong Kong's prevalent Chinese dialect.

Cantonese-language pop music has been instrumental in TVB's successes, and TVB has served to help the music industry grow.

The late diva Anita Mui, an actress and one of Hong Kong's most successful "Cantopop" stars, was the product of TVB's first annual New Talent Singing Contest in 1982. Award-winning actor and singer Leon Lai, now starring in Chen Kaige's "Mei Lan Fang," also got his start in the New Talent Singing Contest.
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