The Hong Kong government is looking to set up a deputy director position at Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK, which it said will be responsible for administrative work and development.

RTHK was the target of a critical report from the Audit Commission last November, which said it had a shrinking audience. The new post will address the problems raised by the report, as well as handle affairs related to the proposed new building, according to an official from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB).

RTHK Staff Union outside their office. Photo: RTHK Staff Union, via Facebook.

However, Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki compared the post to an “imperial commissioner,” saying that it may turn the broadcaster into a government mouthpiece.

The RTHK Programme Staff Union also said in a statement that the move was unnecessary, and may lead to administrative staff being given too much power.

“In recent years, the administrative department of RTHK has broken its usual restraint, and interfered with personnel appointments from time to time, as a means to control RTHK,” the statement read.

“We hope the authorities will focus on tackling the problem and fight for production resources, instead of choosing the distant option of giving promotions to administrative officers.”

Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications and Creative Industries) Clement Leung. Photo: Legco screenshot.

The concern was echoed by People Power lawmaker Ray Chan, who demanded an explanation from the government as to why the administrative post was given priority.

In response, CEDB official Clement Leung said the deputy director role would not have anything to do with news reporting or programming. RTHK also had a fair system to deal with personnel management, he added.

The staff union called for a boost to RTHK’s frontline staff, as well as stronger support for its programming. The union noted that the top post for RTHK’s programming – the deputy director of broadcasting (programmes) – had been left unfilled for nearly a year, and criticised the government for the delay.

The Audit Commission report last year gave rise to fears that RTHK’s budget may be cut, with some pro-Beijing lawmakers suggesting that news programmes will be the first to go.

The proposed RTHK new broadcasting house. Photo: LegCo.

At a Wednesday legislative meeting, lawmaker Elizabeth Quat from the DAB party also criticised RTHK as having an anti-government bias in its programming. Lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok from the Business and Professionals Alliance said that the public broadcaster was “wasteful” and some of its programmes were unattractive.

The item did not come to a vote on Wednesday, and more discussion is expected at the legislature.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.