True colours

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am


RTHK recently decided not to renew the contracts of two popular phone-in current affairs talk-show hosts for next year, saying the decision was part of programme changes. The station is a public broadcaster funded with public money and thus people will be extremely sensitive to any changes.

It's clear the whole thing was orchestrated. The station defended the axing as necessary because the programmes had not been changed for years and a revamp was in order. It was claimed that many listeners felt that the personal style of both hosts was too aggressive, and hence restricted the opportunities for the public to express their views when they phoned in.

The political stance of the two hosts - Robert Chow Yung and Ng Chi-sum - is pretty clear: one is pro-establishment, and the other pro-democrat. So it's difficult to say that the axing is related to their political leanings.

It's also difficult to say the move interferes with editorial independence because the station has the autonomy to make staff changes, plus the decision not to renew their contracts was made by senior management and not just the newly appointed broadcasting chief Roy Tang Yun-kwong.

Strangely, we've heard nothing from the supporters of the Save RTHK Campaign, including the Civic Party.

To be fair, changes are needed because the station, as a public broadcaster, must put more emphasis on serving the wider community, especially the underprivileged. There is no need for it to hold strong political views.

However, the handling of the matter by those who are civil servants has shown little respect to the two non-civil-servant hosts who have served the station for so many years. Is their ulterior motive to protect the interests of civil servants, such as their pay, welfare and perks?

To them, the two hosts are outsiders. Many of them dislike Chow's personal style while Ng is a well-known critic of the pro-Beijing and pro-establishment camp.

As a public broadcaster, RTHK shouldn't insist on running the station like a private commercial entity. This model had created problems and even scandals in the past in relation to the use of public funds.

In 2006, the Audit Commission criticised the broadcaster for its lax financial and management controls, saying it did not comply with regulations and procedures covering many aspects of its operations, including expenses and claims, outsourcing of services and acceptance of sponsorship. RTHK pledged to take corrective action. But, despite this, problems appear to have persisted.

This management style has created a mess for the station's operation. The government needs to bring in sweeping changes to clean it up.

The latest controversy has exposed the true colours of senior management and staff representatives who are on civil-service terms, as well as supporters of the Save RTHK Campaign. They don't really want to save anything; they just want to safeguard their own interests.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.