Overhaul fears for RTHK as reviews start

Local | Erin Chan 29 May 2020

A dedicated team led by a senior officer has been appointed to review governance and management at RTHK to ensure public broadcasting services fully abide by its charter, the commerce and economic development bureau said yesterday.

The team will report directly to the bureau's permanent secretary.

The move followed concerns over the management and the program contents of RTHK, including its satirical program Headliner and political commentary program Pentaprism.

Headliner drew more than 3,300 complaints due to an episode aired on February 14 while a Pentaprism episode aired on November 20 sparked 347 complaints.

Both programs were slapped with warnings by the Communications Authority after complaints were received over their accuracy and incitement of hatred against police.

The team will look at all major aspects of RTHK, including administration, financial control and resource deployment in compliance with all applicable government rules and regulations.

"The review will commence in mid-2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and will submit a report to [the bureau]," the bureau said.

Team members will not take part in program production or editorial decision.

RTHK will be required to follow up on any issues "in a proactive and positive manner, and duly meets its responsibility as a public service broadcaster and strictly complies with the relevant codes of practice," it added.

Amen Ng Man-yee, head of RTHK's corporation communications and standards sector, said the director of broadcasting Leung Ka-wing had not been invited to join the team.

"RTHK will support the team and provide assistance if needed," she said. HK First lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said the bureau's move "created something out of nothing."

"The government resorts to visible and invisible means, forcing RTHK to succumb to self-censorship It may be paving the way for terminating the contract of Leung Ka-wing as well," she said.

Lawmaker for the IT sector Charles Mok said it is "an unprecedented move to control RTHK."

Mok said the team lacks independence, and he feared the team may intervene in program direction, eventually turning the broadcaster into a government mouthpiece.

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