Hong Kong public broadcaster, RTHK, has sacked a veteran journalist from hosting a phone-in radio programme, as the station cancelled other shows amid a government-directed editorial overhaul.

At RTHK’s Open Line Open View programme on Monday evening, professional consultant at the Chinese University’s School of Journalism and Communication, Allan Au, announced that it was his last appearance as a host of the political commentary show.

Allan Au
Allan Au hosts his last episode of RTHK’s Open Line Open View n June 28, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The veteran journalist, who worked as a senior producer at TVB News, said he had hosted the phone-in programme once or twice a week for 11 years. He described his departure as “the end of a chapter,” saying he had built a relationship with the listeners over the years.

“Actually, we only discus facts [during the show], and we reason, we just want to listen to the opinions of more people,” he said at the end of Monday’s show.

Au then bid farewell to his audience and other staff at the government-funded media organisation: “Everyone, take care.”

Speaking on Commercial Radio on Tuesday morning, Au said he was told by the department head 30 minutes before the radio programme began that it would be his last day owing to “staffing changes.”

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The CUHK scholar said he did not know why he was fired as a host, but speculated that it was related to opinion pieces he wrote for other media outlets, some of which was critical of senior management at the public broadcaster.

Au said he was only in charge of raising questions in the RTHK show, adding he had never expressed the views from his commentaries while on air.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, the Corporate Communications & Standards Unit of RTHK said the station reviewed programme content and manpower arrangements from time to time, adding they would not comment on individual cases.

“The latest staffing arrangement of Open Line Open View belongs to RTHK’s internal editorial affairs,” the public broadcaster said.

It is the second time in two weeks that RTHK has removed a radio host. On June 18, popular pro-democracy presenter Tsang Chi-ho was told he was sacked from a radio talk show after he came off air. Tsang’s co-host Jackie Chan was also dismissed.

Tsang Chi-ho
Tsang Chi-ho. Photo: Tsang Chi-ho, via Facebook.

On Monday, RTHK Talk Show – an evening television programme covering topics such as philosophy, history and literature – was axed, according one of its hosts Leung Kai-chi.

The political commentator said on Facebook that he originally had to record an episode on Tuesday, but later received a notice saying that the show had been terminated.

“Thank you to the production team for your efforts along the way. Thank you to the guest hosts for encouraging each other and thank you each and every audience for your support and encouragement,” Leung wrote, attaching a photo of an empty studio in RTHK.

Another RTHK programme – RTHK31 This Week appeared to have disappeared from the station’s timetable. The scheduled timeslot was replaced by an episode of Hall of Wisdom, which featured an interview with local cyclist Sarah Lee and boxer Rex Tso that was first aired in 2016.

One of the former hosts of RTHK31 This Week was journalist Nabela Qoser, who became known for her tough, rapid-fire questioning of top government officials. Her employment contract with RTHK was axed in May, after her probation was extended while she faced internal investigations following complaints.

Asked why the two programmes were suspended, RTHK said like other media organisations, they would review and update the programme combinations of different channels from time to time.

The broadcaster said potential amendments included replacing old programmes, adding new elements to existing shows, adjusting the airtime and putting some shows on a “season break.”

Silent protest RTHK union
A silent protest staged by the RTHK union to support their colleague Nabela Qoser. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“For concrete arrangement of programmes, please pay attention to RTHK’s statements on different programmes,” the Corporate Communications & Standards Unit told HKFP.

RTHK has undergone a series of editorial shake-up since the arrival of the new Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li in March. At least ten episodes have been censored before they were broadcast, while at least five top executives have resigned or took early retirement amid a staff exodus

The embattled broadcaster faced a barrage of criticism from pro-Beijing figures and groups for “biased reporting” against the government and police, and was ordered by the authorities in February to tackle “deficiencies” in editorial management.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.