Funding request for new RTHK premises cut by 12pc to gain lawmakers' support

Government reduces funding request to win pro-Beijing lawmakers' support, but legislators who vetoed previous proposal remain unmoved

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 3:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 3:46am

The government has cut its funding request for the new RTHK headquarters by 12 per cent to about HK$5.3 billion, but the pro-establishment lawmakers still find the proposal unacceptable.

The revised plan came after the lawmakers - a majority of whom are from the pro-Beijing camp - rejected the government's approximate HK$6 billion request during the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee meeting on January 3.

In an attempt to lobby support from Legco's biggest Beijing-loyalist party, commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung and RTHK broadcasting deputy director Tai Keen-man met the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong yesterday to discuss the amended proposal.

Under the revised plan, the overall cost of building the new RTHK headquarters in Tseung Kwan O will decrease by HK$725 million - or 12 per cent - to about HK$5.3 billion from the original request for about HK$6 billion.

Some of the cuts came from reducing planned furniture and equipment costs by HK$300 million. RTHK now intends to retain the ageing broadcasting equipment it had meant to replace.

The amounts required for emergency use and consultation were also cut by HK$244 million and HK$36 million respectively.

But the construction cost of the headquarters' hardware would remain unchanged in the amended proposal.

The compromise, however, failed to move the pro-Beijing lawmakers who had vetoed the previous HK$6 billion funding request. They had done so because they were dissatisfied the amount was almost four times its 2009 estimate of HK$1.6 billion.

"They may have proposed cuts in the equipment cost, but we may still have to fund them in future if their equipment breaks down," DAB lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun said.

"The construction cost is still too high to be accepted.

"There are already quite a few 24-hour news channels. Why don't [RTHK] just replay the programme by CCTV [or other stations]?"

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Chan Yuen-han also rejected the revised plan.

"It means nothing as only the cost on software but not hardware has been trimmed down," she said, adding that the scale of the new headquarters should be fundamentally shrunk.

But Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok asked if the Beijing loyalists had a hidden agenda in opposing the funding.

"Why do they still refuse to accept the plan even though the cost has been reduced by HK$725 million? Is it because they see RTHK as being too critical towards the government?"

So called on lawmakers to approve the revised request as another delay would risk having to go through a new tender process, which would serve only to further drive up costs.