Political pressure at RTHK just fact of life, says ex-chief

Other workers in Hong Kong are subject to it, too, and 'it's not fatal', says Cheung Man-yee

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 4:45am

Former director of broadcasting Cheung Man-yee has claimed that to deny RTHK staff were subject to political pressure was merely to "deceive oneself", but she insisted that calling for incumbent director Roy Tang Yun-kwong to quit would not solve the problem.

In a closed-door seminar held by RTHK Programme Staff Union last night, Cheung, a 30-year veteran of the government-funded broadcaster who left in 1999, returned to the station and met with almost 100 staffers.

While some staff, including acting assistant director of TV and corporate business Forever Sze Wing-yuen, had recently complained about being assigned "political missions", Cheung said many Hongkongers in various industries could feel the same political pressure.

"Pretending there is no political pressure is only deceiving oneself," she said after the meeting. "But the pressure is not fatal and we have to take it positively."

Tang was appointed the government's administrative officer of RTHK in 2011 amid criticism that he lacked experience. But Cheung said: "No matter how brilliant one is, one cannot understand all the news principles and make professional news judgments on day one. Both sides [management and staff] need to pay more attention to communication."

She said having an administrative officer at the helm of the broadcaster was not the root of the problem, nor was making him quit the answer.

"Some administrative officers I know … understand the principles of news very well. The important thing is that whoever comes in should understand why public broadcasting exists and that it is serving the people."

Pretending there is no political pressure is only deceiving oneself. But the pressure is not fatal and we have to take it positively
Former RTHK director of broadcasting Cheung Man-yee

Last month, Tang lashed out at two of RTHK's leading public affairs programmes, Headliner and City Forum. Reports said Tang had disagreed over a decision to mock the absence of government officials in a City Forum debate on the national education curriculum. He was also said to have been outraged at the idea of introducing Nazi characters into the satirical show Headliner.

Union spokeswoman Bao Choy Yuk-ling said it had not received complaints about editorial interference since the saga.

Separately, Cheung voiced support for the Occupy Central movement, saying she would join the action if it went ahead.