The Communications Authority has ruled that a satirical programme by public broadcaster RTHK insulted and denigrated the police force, and has “strongly advised” the station to follow broadcasting regulations more closely.

The regulatory body issued its decision Thursday, ruling that some of the 44 complaints against three episodes of Headliner were justified.

RTHK Headliner
RTHK’s Headliner has received complaints after airing a controversial episode. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The authority said its investigation found that, a segment of the show mocking the programme Police Report was “deliberately denigrating” to police. The host He Wong, dressed as a police officer, emerged from a rubbish bin at the beginning of the segment.

“Such portrayal was deliberate with the intention, obvious to general viewers, to insult and to convey the prejudice hinting that police officers were a group of people who were seen as trash, were revulsive and spurned,” the judgement read.

The programme also failed the give police a “suitable opportunity” to respond, it said.

The authority also ruled that a segment showing a police officer’s speech at a district council meeting gave the impression that the officer “was telling lies and making fake news, and had the effect of adversely affecting his reputation.”

RTHK Broadcasting House. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Some other complaints, such as those alleging bad taste, glorification of crimes and misleading materials, were found to be unjustified.

Headliner was one of Hong Kong’s longest running political satirical shows but was pulled off the air in June last year after 31 years following complaints about its portrayal of police and of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

RTHK is government-funded but strives to maintain editorial independence. It has been under fire from pro-Beijing quarters and others in recent years. The head of a police union on Tuesday accused it of “biased” reporting on government-issued food parcels during a coronavirus lockdown.

In another incident RTHK journalist, Nabela Qoser, who is known for asking tough questions of government officials, was recently told to accept a new short-term contract or face dismissal.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.