Funding for Hong Kong’s embattled public broadcaster RTHK has been cut in the 2021-22 budget announced Wednesday, following increasing criticism from the government and pro-Beijing forces.
Total spending will be cut by 4.6 per cent, from HK$1.04 billion to HK$995 million. Finance Secretary Paul Chan made no mention of the reduction in his budget address.
Funding for RTHK’s Public Affairs and General Television Programme, which produces news programmes The Pulse and Hong Kong Connection, will fall by 9.2 per cent from HK$577 million to HK$524 million.
The budget estimated that posts at the broadcaster would grow from 736 to 760 over the coming two years.
The fully government-funded but nominally independent broadcaster faces increasing pressure from Hong Kong authorities as they move to rein in its content and bring it under closer supervision.
In the budget released Wednesday, matters said to be “requiring special attention” for the coming year included the implementation of recommendations by a government review of its governance and management released last week.
The report lambasted RTHK for its “weak” editorial accountability and called for increased transparency in its handling of complaints from the public.
“The governance and management of RTHK indeed have some issues. [It] must make improvements in its system, execution and monitoring,” Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said at the time.
On the same day, RTHK’s Director of Broadcasting was replaced with the former deputy secretary for home affairs , who has no journalism experience.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho has called for RTHK to be merged with the government’s public relations department.
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