RTHK officials face Legco grilling over new HK$6 billion home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:53am

RTHK yesterday faced a grilling from lawmakers eager to find out why the construction costs of its planned new headquarters have almost quadrupled to HK$6.1 billion in four years, from an original estimate of HK$1.6 billion.

The public broadcaster's chief, Roy Tang Yun-kwong, said estimates made in 2009 did not take into account the new tasks imposed on RTHK by the government, including the launch of three new television channels, a digital audio service and a media asset management service.

The new tasks, coupled with a larger proposed site in Tseung Kwan O, explain why the project cost increases outpaced inflation in construction, Tang told a Legislative Council panel.

Susie Ho Shuk-yee, a permanent secretary from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, said it was difficult for RTHK to expand its services in its current 44-year-old headquarters in Kowloon Tong.

But lawmakers demanded a more detailed cost estimate, as the government seeks funding approval from the Legco finance committee and its subcommittee as early as next month.

"It was rather too expensive," Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said.

Christopher Chung Shu-kun, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, asked for a more detailed explanation of the cost increase. But in response officials only reiterated the floor area changes to the project.

The new broadcasting house will be built on a 30,600 square metre plot, and the finished nine-storey building will provide a net operational floor area of some 27,660 square metres - about 77 per cent larger than RTHK's current home.

About 30 per cent of the floor space - or 8,090 square metres - will be used for staff offices. Specialist facilities such as archives and libraries will occupy about 20 per cent of the floor area, as will facilities for digital terrestrial television broadcasting. Another 7 per cent of the building will be used as the news centre. Its proposed size - 1,910 square metres - is almost seven times larger than current news facilities.

Upon completion of the project in 2018, RTHK will produce its own television news reports and 4,000 to 6,000 hours of television programmes a year - about five to eight times its current productivity, Tang added.