RTHK wants HK$64.2 million to extend digital television coverage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:38am

RTHK is seeking HK$64.2 million to extend its digital television coverage from 75 per cent to 99 per cent of the population.

The money is needed to build 22 terrestrial television transmission stations by 2019, the public broadcaster told lawmakers.

Faced with the need to re-plan its proposed new headquarters after its original funding request was rejected and a revised one was withdrawn, RTHK also wants to extend its temporary post of deputy director of broadcasting (developments) for five years.

This would cost the public HK$2.93 million a year, according to documents sent to legislators yesterday.

The post, currently held by Leonia Tai Shuk-yiu, was created for three years in 2011.

RTHK started a trial run of three high-definition television channels in January.

Channel 31 offers general programming including current affairs, education, arts and culture; channel 32 broadcasts live Legislative Council meetings, and channel 33 relays CCTV's Channel 9 documentaries.

Without more transmission stations, RTHK said, residents of Cheung Sha Wan, Sham Shui Po, Chai Wan, Siu Sai Wan, Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau, Tai Wai, Yuen Long, Clear Water Bay, Tseung Kwan O and southern Lantau would not be able to watch the channels.

The station's original HK$6 billion headquarters plan was rejected by the Legislative Council Finance Committee.

A revised HK$5.3 billion plan was withdrawn before a vote in the Public Works Committee after the government concluded it would be voted down.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said yesterday that the 22 transmission stations were not related to the new headquarters, but were needed to fulfil the public broadcaster's pledge to provide digital television services.

The bureau said the deputy director (developments) would lead a critical review of the facilities needed in the new headquarters and explore the possibility of cost reduction.

After that, it would take at least two years to complete a new tender for the project.

The person who takes up the extended post would also be responsible for co-ordinating maintenance work at the existing headquarters to prolong its lifespan, the bureau said.

The RTHK Programme Staff Union yesterday slammed the bureau for what it termed the premature withdrawal of the headquarters proposal.

It accused the bureau of having failed to do its best to bargain for lawmakers' support for RTHK's proposal.

"At least 29 legislators told us they supported the project," the staff union said, questioning why the bureau had concluded that the project would be voted down.