• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:05pm
NewsHong Kong

Lawmakers vote down HK$6b funding for new RTHK headquarters

Critics say new headquarters too costly; officials say broadcaster's development will be hindered

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 11:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:14am

Plans to expand Radio Television Hong Kong suffered a setback yesterday when lawmakers rejected a HK$6.1 billion proposal to build a new headquarters for the public broadcaster, saying it was too costly.

Officials expressed disappointment and said the rejection could hinder RTHK's development of digital radio and TV broadcasting, which is already lagging.

Most pro-establishment lawmakers at a meeting of the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee opposed the budget request, which was nearly four times the previous estimate of HK$1.6 billion in 2009. It was voted down by 10 votes to 15.

One pan-democrat who supported the project suggested the government had put forward a seemingly unacceptable request in the hope it would be vetoed, since RTHK current affairs programmes had been highly critical of it.

The government can still put the proposal to the full Finance Committee at a later date. But unless the funding is approved by March 20, the present quotation will expire and another round of tendering will be needed, leading to further delay and higher costs because of inflation and rising construction labour wages.

At the centre of the dispute is a long-overdue plan to build a new headquarters for RTHK in Tseung Kwan O to expand its services as part of its promised mission to fulfil the role of a public service broadcaster. The services would include 24-hour television news, enhanced digital audio broadcasting and digital terrestrial television.

RTHK plans to launch digital terrestrial broadcasts in 2018 and trials are under way. Households already receiving digital TV should be able to receive the trial signal once they have tuned their televisions to show the RTHK channel.

The plan for the new headquarters dates back to 2000, when it was estimated it would cost HK$1.5 billion. This was revised to $1.6 billion in 2009.

At yesterday's meeting, Director of Broadcasting Roy Tang Yun-kwong argued that the previous estimates were very rough. "At that time, there was no detail of the design," he said.

He warned further delay would increase the cost, citing the new Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai border crossing, for which costs rose by more than 50 per cent, to HK$24.8 billion, in just 18 months.

Legislator Elizabeth Quat, of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "The DAB is not against building a bigger headquarters for RTHK. But must it be for such an astronomical sum of money?"

Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the New People's Party, was the only pro-establishment member to vote for the funding. "RTHK deserves a better environment," he said.

Albert Chan Wai-yip of People Power, who voted for the proposal, was sceptical. "It is well known that one of the political missions of [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying is to 'fix' RTHK. Now the government actually wants us to vote down the project by putting forward such a lousy funding request."

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung expressed disappointment with the result.

"When we lobbied the councillors, we heard of some concerns over the amount and whether the project was value for money. Politics was not mentioned," he said.

In the latest survey on media credibility by Chinese University, RTHK was ranked the most trusted medium in Hong kong.


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This article is now closed to comments

Huh, 6 billion dollars for rthk? Does anyone actually watch them. I assume less than ATV. Why do we need a 24 news channel paid for by the government. There is not that much news in HK. It will just be the same 2 hour news repeated 6 times (on a good day). I already have stopped watching news at night as I already learned it all during the day.
The government would be better off by pumping 6 billion into wireless broadband and getting more people on the internet.
Internet is the future with news on demand. Not television stations.
Dai Muff
Who are they trying to kid that this is not political? The primary opponents were DAB and FTU (read "communists") who used the cost as a smokescreen. And Greg So, former DAB, says he had no ideas about politics? The simple fact is the three pieces of land on which RTHK sits in Broadcast Drive are worth at least $10 billion, which - even ignoring the other facilities they rent - would have resulted in at least a $4 billion windfall to the government. RTHK is not a fly-by-night entrepreneur's profit machine that can close down in five years when he has made a profit. The old buildings have been in operation for 60 years or more. So would the new ones. Not political? A flying pig just went past my window. Democrats have not been awake on this one.
Dai Muff
Believe it or not, RTHK does have several 24 hour radio stations too, including the ONLY English ones. The station was, this week, also voted most reliable news source in HK. It has also been charged by the government with developing digital TV channels. You must be a Westerner because the rest of us would certainly know about RTHK's television programmes, and certainly about "Headliner", and "Face to Face", and "The Common Sense", which are highly popular in the Chinese community and often critical of the government. When all we have otherwise to see on local issues and politics is CCTVB and the absurd ATV, there is every reason we need RTHK ... unless you are a short term stayer who just does not give a ......
Allowing a handful of idiots to decide on how to spend billions of taxpayers' money is truly undemocratic.
The democrats weren't interested because it didn't have universal suffrage, elections or anything like that involved. Democrats aren't interested in HK just their little pedestals from which to shout and criticise.
One observation _ most comments and most legco members agree - 6 billion+ is too expensive. Is it a good thing that most pro-gov, anti-gov, functional const. vetoed against it ? Only a minority supported this with limited view.
Some comments are so heavy with sarcasm it is difficult to tell which side the comment supports. As to the government wanting to resume the land on which RTHK now stands in Broadcast drive, it is inconceivable that the government chooses a very public 6billion dollar fight to decant RTHK to reap the 4 billion from the existing site. Where is the logic of the numbers and method, and for a cash-rich government?
John Adams
The organisations like RTHK and govt public works departments, who consistently under-estimate their budgets by as many hundreds of % as our failed-from 3- math-FS over-estimates his budget surpluses , are not being very clever these days with increased funding requests.
Instead of asking for $6 billion RTHK should have asked for $ 60 biilion. Then they might have stood some chance of getting the ridiculous $ 6 billion they say they "need"


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