RTHK boss fears mouthpiece tag

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am

Head of RTHK Cheung Man-yee said yesterday that viewers and listeners would desert the station if it became a government mouthpiece.

Ms Cheung said any such move would kill the influence of the station and waste public money.

Making her first public remarks since the row triggered by Xu Simin early this month, she said the controversy showed there was now 'no debate' about the role of RTHK as a public broadcaster that 'provided high-quality programmes and a channel to reflect public opinion'.

The maintenance of an independent public broadcaster would benefit the public, Government and the media and build up Hong Kong as an international city.

Ms Cheung said a public broadcaster allowed an independent channel of expression for the public - free from political and commercial pressure - and provided different programmes from commercially-run stations.

She said Tung Chee-hwa understood RTHK's role as a public broadcaster.

She would discuss the issue with the new Secretary for Information Technology Co-ordination Kwong Ki-chi after he took office next month.

Under the new structure, RTHK will come under the jurisdiction of Mr Kwong's bureau.

Citing pledges by Mr Tung and officials, she said editorial independence was not open to dispute.

A number of opinion surveys, she said, had shown overwhelming support.

One option to ensure such independence would not be threatened, she said, was to corporatise RTHK.

'It's a long road. We'll wait and see what comes out from the motion debate in the Provisional Legislative Council on April 1.' Ms Cheung said she hoped Mr Xu would spend more time watching and listening to programmes.

'We welcome Mr Xu to visit RTHK and have an in-depth discussion with us.' Ms Cheung described as a timely morale-booster the news that three of the station's productions had received awards at the 33rd Chicago International TV Competition.

They were a Gold Plaque for The Common Sense, a Silver Plaque for Sex Education Programme and a Certificate of Merit for Success Stories.

The next part of Success Stories - a series on renowned Chinese - will start with the story of Li Ka-shing.