Legislators' rebuff of budget for new RTHK home goes against reason

Robert Chua says delaying proposal for a new broadcasting centre will only add to the cost

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 January, 2014, 12:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 2:47am

I do not understand how lawmakers' minds work. Since it has been agreed that a new RTHK broadcasting centre will be built, the only thing legislators needed to do was make sure what is needed justified the HK$6.1 billion budget. Turning down the funding request just because it was - to quote legislator Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - "an astronomical sum of money" is not a valid reason.

Surely, members of the Legislative Council should only oppose the funding if they have professional justification for doing so - by showing that certain items are not essential to the building and equipping of the new centre. But there is no such justification; RTHK is not seeking to put together a "Rolls-Royce" centre. How can lawmakers oppose the cost of construction and hardware at the current market value?

They should not bicker about the high cost when that is indeed the true cost.

In any case, how does one define an "astronomical" sum of money? It depends on who you ask. To a beggar, HK$1,000 is an astronomical sum; for the man in the street, it might be HK$100 million; yet, to the super rich, HK$100 million might just cover the cost of one home they own. So it's silly to use that as a reason to reject the proposal.

This delay by lawmakers will only cost more money; unless the funding is approved by March, the present quote will expire and another round of tendering will have to take place. That will mean further delays and higher costs because of inflation and rising construction wages. There will be no end to it if lawmakers consider the HK$6.1 billion price tag astronomical.

We can all agree that Hong Kong needs to build a credible RTHK centre; it is long overdue. I am certain that the cost of the new centre is not excessive, given that it is governed by a strict tendering process.

The DAB said it was not against building bigger headquarters for RTHK. I don't believe they had a good enough reason for not approving the budget. If new headquarters need to be built, we need to accept the fact and not delay the project further with bickering.

I hope lawmakers will face the reality. It's not like we can play around with the figures; these are the facts.

In the public's mind, RTHK is the most credible TV content producer in Hong Kong; it was recently ranked the most trusted media company in Hong Kong in a survey by the Chinese University. We need RTHK to provide programmes that will counter some of the trash aired by commercial TV stations.

Veteran broadcaster Robert Chua was the founding production manager and creator/executive producer of Enjoy Yourself Tonight at TVB, Hong Kong's first terrestrial TV station, and founder of satellite TV station CETV