RTHK axes popular radio phone-in hosts
Two popular and prominent radio phone-in hosts at RTHK have been told their contracts will not be renewed next year.
Ng Chi-sum, a co-host of evening phone-in show Open Line, Open View, and Robert Chow Yung, host of morning phone-in programme Talkabout, got the news on Tuesday, less than three months after the controversial appointment of director of broadcasting Roy Tang Yun-kwong.
Neither host pointed to any political motive in the decision, but Ng said it had been sudden and puzzling.
Ng said the station's assistant director Tai Keen-man told him his services would not be needed when major changes were introduced to the programme next year. The changes will include taking more calls from the audience, the insertion of pre-recorded segments, and live news reports by student reporters.
'It was puzzling to me,' said Ng, who has hosted the show for seven years.
'It came without any sign. I understand the show needs changes, but that doesn't mean there should be only one host, or that I should have to go.'
Three women who had been sharing co-host duties will also depart and Ng will be replaced by veteran broadcaster Chan Yin-ping. Chow's co-host Leung Ka-wing will remain.
Ng said it was hard to say whether the non-renewal of his contract was related to Tang's appointment, which was hotly criticised by station staff because he had no broadcasting background. Ng could not say whether it was related to his style, which he did not regard as aggressive, but objective and balanced.
Ng will keep his long-time post as host of the popular television current affairs programme Headliner.
Chow, who has hosted Talkabout for 12 years, said he would leave before Christmas Day. He said he did not see the decision as political or personal.
'It's OK,' he said. 'I can start to do something different. I don't need to get up at 5am anymore and I can take a Christmas holiday, something I haven't done for 12 years.'
RTHK head of corporate communications Kirindi Chan Man-kuen said the matter had nothing to do with the new director, and that the station staff had been discussing changes to the shows for a while.
'The content and hosts in the two programmes have not changed over the past 10 years,' she said.
Chinese University political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung said it was unusual to see RTHK taking such drastic action, considering Ng had been a prominent target of leftist media and was an icon for RTHK and press freedom. He said the station owed the public a good explanation.
Legislative Council IT and broadcasting panel chairman Wong Yuk-man said the decision was sudden and seemed to contradict what station management earlier said to pacify staff who had been angry about the new director. He said the station would have to explain itself to a panel meeting he planned to call soon.
RTHK Programme Staff Union chairwoman Janet Mak Lai-ching said there was nothing wrong with the programme changes, but the station as a public institution had to consider the consequences of losing two popular hosts who had strong styles and characters.
She said she was worried about the programmes' ability to maintain high levels of quality.