Only public service broadcaster can provide quality television

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 September, 2009, 12:00am

Robert Chua suggests that television's role is to educate, inform and entertain ('Viewers can halt tide of degrading programmes', August 25).

Regrettably, that is not television's role.

It is the role of public service broadcasting, set down by the first director of the BBC, Lord Reith, in 1927.

The role of commercial television is fundamentally the same as a football club - to provide a type of entertainment to maximise viewership and income.

We would hardly expect a football club to 'inform and educate'.

The fact that one of the greatest-ever inventions in the field of communications is used for such facile pursuits is just another illustration of the fallacy of the dogma that a free market provides everything people need.

All developed countries in the world have public-service television services and Hong Kong cannot claim to be a world-class city until it is created here.

The usual cry arises: 'Who will pay for it?'

The answer to this question is: 'The same people who are paying for commercial television: the public'.

The notion that it comes free of charge is a complete myth. Every commercial that is transmitted represents a small 'levy' on something purchased. Divide the total advertising income of the 'free to air' TV companies by the number of households in Hong Kong, and it comes to more than HK$200 a month.

Mr Chua and I, and many other people, are forced to pay at least HK$200 a month for something that we do not want. Such is the 'democracy' of the wonderful 'free market'. In other businesses, it might command the attention of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The only way to satisfy Mr Chua's wish is to choose the best way to fund a corporation to provide services (perhaps RTHK). There are many ways of doing this; all that is lacking is the will.

Perhaps the new CreateHK may find a way, because another outcome of a public TV service is to nurture higher levels of creative talent.

S. P. Li, Lantau