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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 12:58am
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RTHK chief does not belong: producer

Broadcasting director under fire as leaked e-mail that sparked concerns of editorial interference is verified as coming from him

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 5:33am

The producer of RTHK's satirical TV show Headliner has questioned the authority of the government's broadcasting director Roy Tang Yun-kwong - who was yesterday confirmed as the author of a leaked e-mail expressing "serious concerns" on a proposal to use Nazi characters in the programme.

Tang, who is due to attend a staff meeting tomorrow to address concerns that he is interfering in editorial independence, was also attacked by a former senior executive at the broadcaster who called on employees to force his resignation.

Liu Wai-ling, Headliner's executive producer, told a Commercial Radio programme that Tang's actions had plunged RTHK into a state of internal friction. She said there had been much "noise" within the station since he took office, in September 2011. "I would not consider [Tang part of RTHK]. If you ask me personally, I would not consider it so," she said.

In the leaked e-mail from Tang's office to acting assistant director of TV and corporate business Forever Sze Wing-yuen, the broadcasting director "reiterated his serious concern" about using Nazi characters, including Adolf Hitler, in the new series of Headliner.

"Your attention was drawn to the likelihood and grave consequences of RTHK censured for being insensitive and disrespectful to victims (and their relatives/ descendants) of the Nazi regime," the e-mail said.

Tang also requests Sze to prepare a report detailing how the idea came about and how staff planned to dispose of the Nazi costumes or photos taken, if any.

Sze's promotion to a permanent post as assistant director is now said to have been blocked by Tang.

An RTHK spokeswoman confirmed the leaked e-mail had come from Tang's office, saying that as the broadcaster's chief editor, he had a responsibility to look after production.

Janet Mak Lai-ching, chairwoman of RTHK Programme Staff Union, said it was "unprecedented" for management to require staff to explain a preliminary idea and said it was suppressing freedom of creation.

Liu said her team had put forward the Nazi idea during a meeting which Tang also attended. She said Tang had reminded them it would be a sensitive subject and the team had revised the idea. She said she had not expected Tang to have such a big reaction afterwards.

Franklin Wong Wah-kay, Tang's predecessor, said it was normal for the broadcasting director and RTHK's frontline staff to have different views on handling public affairs programmes.

"It has happened in the past. The storm is growing bigger this time partly because Sze is unlikely to be promoted to a permanent post," Wong said.

Meanwhile, Benny Cheung Kwok-leung, the former head of RTHK's current affairs section, called on staff to refuse to co-operate with Tang and to force him to resign. "I would no longer claim any relationship between Tang Yun-kwong and the broadcasting director … because he is not qualified ... Even primary school pupils know his decisions are illogical," he said.

The RTHK spokeswoman also confirmed yesterday that radio show Go West, which often criticises the government, will be axed next month "as planned".

 

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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
Not commenting on the wider issues, but what fool thought a Hitler comedy was a good idea, and why are they still insisting it is? If Tang had let it go ahead, not only would Headliner have received much public disgrace, but so would RTHK and Hong Kong. All would have been trashed on an international level. It is the Director of Broadcasting's job to avoid that. Telling you this is a moronic idea is not censorship. It's common sense. And an idea mentioned just one week before a programme goes to air is hardly a "preliminary idea".
jayb
according to this SCMP report, the Headliner is NOT running an expose of "the dark sides... of Nazi Germany..." ala CBS 60 Minutes. SCMP reports the program intends to use Nazi characters for this "satirical" programming. i applaud Mr. Tang for bringing this issue to the front as many Hong Kong media people have no clue. one example, on many occasions, i heard RTHK Cantonese program hosts mimicking south asian speaking indian/pakistani accented cantonese for satirical purpose. this is a HUGE NO NO. imagine some americans or brits imitating hong kong people of their hongkonglish for satirical purpose. and now, talking about "sei kui", an idea of having actors wearing nazi uniforms for "satirical" programming?! in US, FCC (Federal Communication Commission) is tasked to go after this. Howard Stern for one, was censured and fined millions of $ for making black or sexist "satirical" comments and this is US, mecca of freedom of speech. as such in every civilized, modern society, there is a code of conduct for media people. if they don't know about "universal values", learn it!!!! Two Thumbs UP, way UP for Mr. Tang.
babyhenry
"Even primary school pupils know his decisions are illogical" - surely caused they were never educated about the WWII and the sensitivity of the subject yet....... perhaps when they are in middle school they will think other wise.
BTW there is a Jewish community in HK, small but they do exist.
hard times !
I just cannot understand why portray the dark sides or negative effects of the brutal and cruel acts of the Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler would make our Director of Broadcasting,Tang Yun-kwong so nervous that he had to press his inferiors/colleagues to tell him how the idea of linking the Communist government on Mainland China with Nazi Germany came about and how would they dispose the information of Nazi costumes and photos taken. Anyway,all these were only in the priliminary stage---during the brainstorm session of the production maybe.Why he was so serious that he had to send e-mail to Mr.Sze Wing-yuen to warn him the ill-effects such a programme might exert on the descendants of the victims of Nazi brtuality ? Besides, probably his acts were all due to his intention not to offend the powerful in town and the authorities across the border only ! Right ?
Dai Muff
Of course there is no "expose of the dark side of Nazi Germany". They were going to have a host of the popular satirical programme Headliner play Hitler and make jokes. This is so far beyond bad taste it's unbelievable. And the producers have even claimed that "this was just Hitler, it had nothing to do with Nazis". At the same time, they are claiming that it is Roy Tang that does not have a clue about editorial judgement. You do not have to be Jewish to find the Hitler idea offensive. You just have to be European or even American. Is it a Chinese idea that if something did not happen to Chinese it is unimportant? Are they THAT parochial? Would the editorial geniuses at Headliner do a comedy about the Rape of Nanking? Tang may have interfered in other ways, I don't know. But it is disgusting that he has been pilloried for doing something right, and completely within his remit as Director of Broadcasting. He's the one who would be held responsible if this monstrous idea had gone ahead.
hard times !
the proper code for media people is to safeguard its independent reporting of events and never bow to the powerful or authorities provided that their productions are unbiased and fair . Producing satirical programmes by planning to use Nazi characters ---in the initial stage only should never be told to explain how their ideas came about---it is a naked intervention of the fredom of press indeed ! Edtiorial independence at RTHK is a much-valued tradition in RTHK for decades even in the British colonial era when the public broadcaster was led by open-minded and professional-trained Ms Cheung Man-yee who expressed her anger and annoyance in this incident/scandal caused by an outsider of public broadcasting--a former A.O.Roy Tang Yun-kwong ! Right ?
hard times !
Being the head of a public broadcaster, he might be too free to care about how the preliminary ideas of a certain programme came about and how his staff would dispose the costumes and photos taken concerning the Nazi of Germany.The whole case looks incredible enough ! As an outsider of public broadcasting before he took up the post of RTHK, I think this Tang Yun-kwong should bemore humble and modest to respect the professionalism and expertise of his experienced staff in producing current affairs programmes which have long been applauded as masterpieces among Hong Kong public (except a bunch of local extreme leftists/blind loyalists represented by Man Wui Po or Tai Kung Pao) "Headliners' and 'City Forum' are two of the most admirable and popular productions of our beloved RTHK of which I am a long-time audience/fan.Maybe it is time for this outsider to seriously think of asking for a transferral or...Right ? He just doesn't belong to that prestigious public broadcaster and has never been found to be.His worsening relationship with most inferiors working at that organisation for years has made him a negative asset of RTHK. Whether experienced Mr.Forever Sze is promoted to the post of assistant director of broadcasting probably not so vital to Mr.Sze himself as he is going to retire two years later.Being an educated person,one's conscience and loyalty towards one's job/task is far more important.Right ?
hard times !
does this old guy Tang still belong or used to belong ever sicne September,2011 when he was airdropped into our belvoed RTHK to be her director (a post once long held by Hongkongers-beloved Ms Cheung Man-yee) and chief editor (which is only in name only since being a director of a government department, one's main task or role is in administration and represents that departement only,not in trivial concrete operations or even ideas that led to the production of a certain programme.Maybe this Tang Yun-kwong has not entered his role at that public broadcaster which is funded by tax-payers'money (including mine) and should serve the public and be their mouthpiece instead of being/acting as a government mouthpiece like the Propaganda Dept.across the border. Right ? Tang just doesn't think he belongs to that organistation but just assigned there to head it and govern it only---a typical passer-by mindset in his eyes and perception, I dare say. Right ? Maybe it is time he seeks a transferral or even an early retirement to serve...
Dai Muff
And you don't even have to be Jewish for your family to have suffered through Hitler. There are plenty of French people here too, And Americans fought Hitler too.

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