The Hong Kong government has ordered a review of Radio Television Hong Kong, the territory’s public broadcaster.
As Hong Kong’s political strife has returned to boiling point in recent weeks, the broadcaster, has been regularly accused by pro-Beijing forces of being biased against the government.
RTHK is technically a government department. It broadcasts on radio in multiple languages, operates news websites and supplies video content to local broadcasters. Its programming, controlled by a government charter, included the obligation to carry public service messages on behalf of the government.
The review is to be conducted by government officials who will report to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.
In setting out the terms of the review, the government highlighted warnings recently issued to the broadcaster by the Communications Authority regulator. These included an edition of TV discussion program “Pentaprism” broadcast on November 20, 2019. RTHK this month halted the long-running Chinese-language satirical show “Headliner,” after a Feb. 14, 2020 edition showed a policeman emerging from a large trash container. The Communications Authority slammed the show as “denigrating and insulting” the police.
Factual program, “Pulse” in March earned the broadcaster yet another government rebuke, after an interviewer asked World Health Organization executive Bruce Aylward a question about Taiwan’s successful response to the coronavirus outbreak. In a clip that went viral, Aylward first pretended not to hear the question, then said “We’ve already discussed China.” After that he terminated the Skype call. The Hong Kong government accused the reporter and RTHK of betraying the “One China Principle.”
Pro-democracy lawmakers have decried the new review as further examples of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government trying to harness RTHK’s programming and to tie it up in bureaucracy.
IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok Thursday called it an “unprecedented move to control the public broadcaster” and said the review panel “totally lacks independence.”
“There will be no due process for not only RTHK but possibly for the public to reflect their concerns. This is yet another example of the (CEDB) and the (permanent) secretary trying to manipulate for a quick result to totally control RTHK,” Mok said at a press conference.