• Thu
  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 10:53am
NewsHong Kong

Legco sends plans for RTHK HQ back to the drawing board

Proposal for Tseung Kwan O HQ set back years as rivals accuse each other of playing politics

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 11:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 2:43pm

A controversial plan to build a new RTHK headquarters has been scrapped and a multibillion-dollar government funding request withdrawn in the face of opposition from Beijing loyalists in Legco.

The project to build a new HQ for the city's public broadcaster will now be sent out for re-tender, causing at least a two-year delay in construction on the site in Tseung Kwan O, officials said.

Yesterday's decision widened the rift between RTHK's management and the government, with the broadcaster's deputy director Tai Keen-man expressing "deep regret" at the decision.

The original cost estimate for the project - made in 2009 - was HK$1.9 billion, which then ballooned to a HK$6 billion funding request that was rejected earlier this month. Officials from the commerce and economic development bureau returned with a slimmed down, HK$5.3 billion price tag but opted to withdraw the request when it became clear it was unacceptable to Beijing loyalists in Legco.

A bureau spokesman said delays caused by the retendering process could well drive up the cost of the project and expressed "disappointment and regret" at members of Legco who opposed the funding request and the scale of the new HQ project.

Pan-democrat information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok expressed surprise that the government backed down so quickly and said: "The pro-Beijing camp has been making use of this opportunity to lessen the role of RTHK."

The chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tam Yiu-chung, welcomed the suspension of the expansion plan for the publicly funded station, which is often accused of being too critical of the government.

Tam insisted he was not opposed to RTHK's expansion, but said the scale needed to be justified and he claimed pan-democrats were only backing the move because they felt politically obliged to do so. But lawmaker Sin Chung-kai, of the Democratic Party, criticised the government for not lobbying harder.

Last night commerce and economic development minister Greg So Kam-leung denied political motives were behind the move, saying RTHK's charter would remain untouched.


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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
Tam Yiu-Cheung, your dear friend Chung Shu-kun has openly said the DAB does not think RTHK should take on the broader roles assigned to it in 2009. Please do not take us for fools. I am afraid the HK public does NOT think CCTV news is good enough. The last thing DAB wants to see is RTHK fulfilling the role the public in consultation has said it wants it to fulfil. It is not hard to see why. Given that RTHK staying where it is for now (a) puts UP prices for the next round (which will come close to an election) and (b) locks up a potential land windfall that is higher than the proposed budget, the financial objections are a smoke screen. It is clearly political, and it looks like the government was pretty half hearted in pushing for it.
The DAB agrees to lots of wasteful but unneeded govt projects but chooses to make a stand on this project which isn't wasteful but needed. A bunch of tossers.
It's quite clear that the DAB and fellow travellers have seized on this budget blow-out and are using it as a stick to beat RTHK. It's not like Hong Kong can't afford it. What we have is a government-funded - but, crucially, not controlled - radio station which is getting in the way of the govt's desire to toe what it perceives to be the Beijing line. Then the machiavellian contortions begin. Govt feigns regret at opposition to funding proposal, withdraws it with a sly private smile, and throws the future of independent public service radio broadcasting into doubt. If CY and his pals think intelligent people can't see through this juvenile ruse, they're more stupid than I thought.
The thing is they don't have a workable and professionally prepared business plan for investing in a Rolls Royce class broadcasting station, it costs 6 billion dollars! check out how much HKTV planned to invest for its 33 channels TV station? No professional auditors would allow such plan to go through without a very substantial cost and benefit assessment!
Dai Muff
CY's predecessor Donald Tsang made a concerted effort to kill RTHK but failed. Only a fool thinks that Beijing has changed its tune.


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