RTHK overseer denies revenge over clashes

Broadcasting director insists he did not block job appointment or interfere with editorial independence after disagreements about shows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 4:47am

The government official in charge of RTHK yesterday hit back at accusations that he interfered in the broadcaster's editorial independence and tried to damage the career of an employee he did not like.

Director of Broadcasting Roy Tang Yun-kwong allegedly decided not to promote acting assistant director of TV and corporate businesses Forever Sze Wing-yuen to the job permanently after the pair clashed.

Reports claim the two men first disagreed over the decision to put empty chairs on the City Forum panel, mocking the absence of two guests in an episode about the controversial national curriculum.

They were Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim and Anna Wu Hung-yuk, who was then the chairwoman of the defunct committee on the implementation of moral and national education.

Tang was said to have clashed with Sze again after he became outraged at the idea of introducing Nazi characters into the popular RTHK television show Headliner.

"All the accusations were unfounded," Tang said yesterday, while defending the right to question the use of Nazi characters.

If any civil servants disagreed with their work assessments, or if they felt they were asked to carry out political missions, they should talk to their superiors or the Civil Service Bureau, Tang said.

He said that RTHK has a committee that meets every Thursday to discuss relevant issues with directorate-level officers, executive producers and members of the relevant production team.

The meetings are conducted in an "open and transparent" way, Tang added.

He said it was true that the committee had asked the production team to "re-consider" introducing Nazi characters for fear it could draw criticism from victims of the Nazi era.

He said it was true that the committee had asked the production team to "re-consider" introducing Nazi characters for fear it could draw criticism from victims of the Nazi era

However, the decision to replace the Nazi characters with characters from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West was made by the production team itself, he said.

Tang said City Forum's production team had offered three "contradictory" reasons for highlighting the absence of Wu and Ng by putting out two empty chairs.

The team initially said the pair had not given any warning that they would not take part in the show, claimed Tang, adding that it later emerged both of them had made it clear they would not be taking part.

The team also said that putting empty chairs out for absent guests was not against RTHK guidelines, said Tang, but it turned out the guidelines clearly state this should be avoided.

"They also said that if the chairs were not placed there, the audience would not know that we had invited them," Tang said.

He added that no one had thought about how the decision would embarrass Wu and Ng.

An RTHK spokeswoman said they had no information about Sze's job position.

RTHK Programme Staff Union's spokeswoman Choy Yuk-ling said Tang was shifting the focus on the Headliner controversy on to the idea about using Nazi characters. What really mattered, she said, was that the production team was asked to explain why it had the idea.

She likened the scrutiny to "white terror", a term used to describe violence carried out by reactionary groups.