A Hong Kong teachers’ union says educators are having difficulty preparing lesson materials after public broadcaster RTHK last month started deleting shows which are over a year old from the internet.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) on Wednesday published results of an online survey conducted between May 31 and June 7. Among the 586 primary and secondary teachers polled, 91.6 per cent said the removal of RTHK programmes caused them difficulty in putting together materials for teaching.

Ip Kin-yuen HKPTU
Vice-chairs of the Hong Kong Teachers’ Union Diana Wong (left) and Ip Kin-yuen (right). Photo: Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union.

The questionnaire found that 78.9 per cent of the respondents had used current affairs programmes produced by the government-funded station, while 70.8 per cent said they had taught students using environmental shows by RTHK.

The most commonly used show was Hong Kong Connection, followed by The History of Hong Kong and RTHK 31 This Week.

The teachers surveyed indicated that they relied on RTHK shows for teaching purposes because the programme content was in line with the syllabus. The fact that the episodes were produced in Cantonese also made it easy for students to understand, the educators said, and they “had confidence” in RTHK’s production values.

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

“The study finds that teachers in general think RTHK programmes are of high quality and can delve into various social issues from multiple angles… they are very rare Cantonese teaching materials,” the HKPTU said in a statement.

Wednesday’s survey showed 92.6 per cent of the respondents agreed that RTHK should restore episodes that it had taken down from YouTube and Facebook since early May. The government-funded broadcaster said at the time the move was to align its social media platforms with RTHK’s website, where only those shows aired within the past 12 months are viewable.

Some viewers had used a blockchain content-sharing platform to back up content on RTHK’s YouTube channel.

“As a public broadcaster, RTHK’s shows are outstanding public resources. They should continue to use social media to keep high-quality programmes produced over the years public, benefiting teachers and students inside and outside the classroom,” the union said.

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

The deletion of programmes last month has deepened fears that the broadcaster was seeing an erosion of the editorial independence which is guaranteed in its charter. The embattled station was ordered to undergo a major overhaul in February, after it faced a barrage of criticism from pro-Beijing figures and groups for producing “biased” coverage of the government and police.

RTHK has cancelled at least 10 shows since the new Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li – who had no previous media experience – took office on March 1. The latest show to be axed was an English-language Radio 3 current affairs programme. The station also deleted a story about an annual long-distance run in late May commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.