Lawmakers want ruling on gay show reversed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2007, 12:00am

Broadcasting Authority's warning to RTHK 'could affect creative freedom'

Lawmakers yesterday unanimously passed a motion demanding the Broadcasting Authority withdraw its ruling that an RTHK programme on gay lovers was unfair, partial and biased towards homosexuality.

But RTHK's director of broadcasting Chu Pui-hing said after the Legislative Council's information technology and broadcasting panel that the motion was not legally binding. He also was concerned the authority's warning would affect creative freedom.

Mr Chu insisted that the public broadcaster never attempted to impose any stance on the issues it covered.

He said the existing code of practice should only apply to issues on which society had an overwhelming opinion. 'For example, we have no problem with the ban on broadcasting obscene and violent materials. But when a topic is highly controversial, we should not apply the same set of monitoring standards,' he said.

Mr Chu guaranteed at the Legco panel meeting that RTHK would not deviate from its mission to present different points of views in society, despite the ruling. However, he admitted the authority's warning would affect producers' discussions on future programmes and their way of interpreting the code of practice.

The authority issued a warning to RTHK in January on its programme broadcast in July last year, Hong Kong Connection - Gay Lovers, criticising it for only presenting the views of a gay man and a lesbian couple on same-sex marriage.

Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, who introduced the ruling withdrawal motion, was backed by all lawmakers at the meeting. She urged the government to use the gay programme as an educational tool in schools.

Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping told legislators his role to ensure that RTHK followed the authority's guidelines was backed by law. Mr Wong was criticised for infringing editorial independence by initiating a meeting with Mr Chu after the director expressed disappointment with the ruling.

More than 30 groups voiced their views at yesterday's panel meeting. Most condemned the authority's rulings against RTHK's gay programme and TVB's broadcast of an unedited version of An Autumn's Tale for its offensive language. The Equal Opportunities Commission said that up to the end of last month, it had received 1,103 inquiries on the case, with most expressing disapproval with the authority's decision. Representatives of the gay community said some broadcasters had cancelled interviews with them after the ruling.