Action demanded on radio report
The RTHK staff union and lawmakers have condemned a government admission that it has no timetable for publishing a report on public service broadcasting - saying it would leave RTHK's future up in the air.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang yesterday arrived empty-handed at a Legislative Council meeting to discuss the report. He left lawmakers dissatisfied with his explanation and the lack of a timetable.
During a question-and-answer session with lawmakers this month, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen surprised everyone when he let slip that he had no plan to release the consultation paper, originally scheduled for yesterday.
Mr Ma reiterated yesterday that the Citizens' Radio case, which challenges the constitutionality and fairness of the current radio licensing regime, had thrown up new complexities in addition to existing sensitivities surrounding the fate of RTHK.
Since the Citizens' Radio case had raised public expectations about the opening up of public airwaves, and because RTHK held seven channels, the two issues should be dealt with together, he said. 'We should consider all these in one go. To deal with this comprehensively, the government needs more time,' Mr Ma said.
When pressed, he said: 'I cannot give you all a timetable today. My colleagues and I will act as swiftly as possible to ensure we issue the consultation within a reasonable time.'
Lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp, however, accused the government of insulting the public's intelligence by using the Citizens' Radio case as an excuse, pointing out that demands for opening up the public airwaves had existed for decades, and the Citizens' Radio case arose because the government had made no reform plans.
The Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah said: 'I cannot see how the secretary can convince the public to accept this delay.'
Frontier convenor Emily Lau Wai-hing suggested there was in fact a timetable for procrastination, and that the government was anticipating a successful appeal of the Citizens' Radio case so it need not amend licensing laws. 'Is this what your timetable is?' she asked. 'To fight all the way to the Court of Final Appeal first, and then beg for more time to amend the laws if you lose? And all this time, RTHK staff are waiting - they could be waiting for years.'
RTHK programme staff union chairwoman Janet Mak Lai-ching said government indecisiveness was causing a new low in staff morale. 'Every day, people ask us, 'Do you still have a job? Does this mean you will be laid off?' We don't know.'
The staff union, RTHK management and Mr Ma's representatives are scheduled to meet today.