RTHK has axed another episode of a current affairs programme at short notice, the broadcaster announced on Facebook. It was the ninth such cancellation since the new Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li took office on March 1.

The cancellation of the episode of Hong Kong Connection due to be aired on Monday evening comes just four days after management decided to delay a separate episode of the same show.

rthk television house broadcast headquarters logo (1)
RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The programme originally due to air on Monday featured interviews with the now-resigned student union cabinet at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and with Eunice Yung of the New People’s Party.

Management had previously approved a written proposal outlining the episode but ordered its cancellation the day it was to be aired, Stand News reported. Li had previously told legislators that producers would have to submit written proposals for pre-screening.

Management at the broadcaster, which aims to be editorially independent, told producers last Thursday to delay a separate episode of the show slated for April 5. It included interviews with members of HKFP and Citizen News about how small independent media in Hong Kong financed by public donations seek to survive in the city’s media landscape.

In response to an HKFP reporter, who was an interviewee in the episode, RTHK‘s production team said: “The episode is still in post-production, it has not been axed, although whether it could be aired or its airing date are uncertain.”

RTHK Hong Kong Connection
Hong Kong Connection is one of the RTHK programmes aired on free TV channels. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Hong Kong Connection, which airs on Mondays, is an award-winning feature and investigative documentary programme and is one of the city’s most trusted current affairs programmes.

Regarding Thursday’s decision to delay the media-related programme, a person with knowledge of the matter told HKFP that members of the editorial management told producers the episode was biased as soon as they saw a brief written summary of the episode, which mentioned the names of the two media outlets and of the interviewees.

They demanded that the episode include additional segments showcasing pro-establishment media, the person said. Producers immediately rejected that request, saying no pro-establishment media in the city rely on public donations to survive.

The management did not see any footage of the episode, the person said. Producers were told to press on with video editing but warned of punishment if the final version appeared biased, management members were quoted as saying.

RTHK Patrick Li
RTHK Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Separately, an RTHK Talk Show programme hosting academic debate on topics such as philosophy, history and literature has reportedly been suspended, according to Stand News citing sources on Monday.

An episode of LegCo Review discussing Beijing’s planned overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system was axed shortly before it aired. At the time, RTHK declined to comment on individual cases, saying its director and senior management would review contentious programmes prior to broadcast, to ensure they comply with RTHK’s charter and guidelines.

In a press release late Monday, RTHK said that recent shows were dropped as they were “not impartial, unbiased and accurate.” The shows had inaccurate descriptions of the looming electoral changes or the security law, and some shows overly focused on “the opinions of one single side,” the press release said.

Press freedom under fire

RTHK has come under fierce attack from pro-Beijing forces for alleged bias over the past year. Its previous chief resigned before his term expired and the current director has no broadcasting experience.

Several senior members of staff have resigned. Senior executive producer Sit Yau-tak, who oversaw multiple programmes including The Pulse and Chinese programme LegCo Review, took early retirement on Thursday.

There are fears of diminishing press freedom in the city since Beijing imposed a national security law last summer. Authorities deny any threat to free expression.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.