An RTHK ceremony to honour its most popular productions turned into a protest over press freedom yesterday.
Staff and some guests at the ceremony wore blue ribbons distributed by the staff union to show their discontent with the head of the government station, Roy Tang Yun-kwong.
While on stage, guests including restaurateur Simon Wong Kit-lung, actor Dominic Lam Ka-wah and Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan openly appealed to Tang to respect press freedom.
At the centre of the dispute is the staff union's proposal that producers' guidelines make it clear RTHK should "promote freedom of expression, open and democratic society, civil participation and a caring community".
Senior management has opposed the idea, saying it is not in line with internationally agreed principles for a public service broadcaster.
The book of producers' guidelines spells out the role of RTHK, the referral system, media ethics, and how to deal with complaints. It was last revised in 2003 and RTHK management has been consulting staff on updating it.
Tang said after the ceremony: "A similar principle is already incorporated in the Charter of RTHK. There is procedure to follow if we want to change the wording. It would be very dangerous if RTHK could single-handedly make changes without proper consultation."
The Charter of RTHK states that, as the public service broadcaster in Hong Kong, the station must fulfil purposes that include providing "an open platform for the free exchange of views without fear or favour".
RTHK Programme Staff Union chairwoman Bao Choy Yuk-ling said: "The changes we proposed are in line with the principles of a public broadcaster accepted in the West and by the United Nations."
She said Tang's refusal to wear a blue ribbon "showed his stance regarding press freedom".
Yesterday's ceremony had been called to honour the station's performance in the latest Appreciation Index Survey by the University of Hong Kong, in which its programmes accounted for 13 of the top 20 TV programmes. RTHK's top performing programme was Drug Battle Series 5, scoring 77.45 out of 100.