PUBLIC broadcaster RTHK is preparing for a possible exodus of senior managers in the lead-up to 1997, following the refusal by Chinese authorities to grant it autonomy. It has groomed middle-level staff for senior roles and attempted to distribute its programmes internationally through the Internet and cable television. Director of Broadcasting Cheung Man-yee sees the overseas exposure of news and views from Hong Kong - which she describes as 'reaching out' - as a way of preserving the territory's international stature. 'We need to retain the cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong,' she said. 'The last thing I want to see is Hong Kong becoming an inward-looking city.' RTHK is seeking a channel on Wharf Cable and has already logged its news broadcasts onto the Internet. It is selling programmes to Chinese stations in London, Sydney and Canada. While she would not disclose her own plans, Ms Cheung said 'some of the more senior staff' were planning to emigrate. 'In the meantime, we have groomed up quite a lot of middle-ranking staff and newcomers who are very certain of themselves,' she said. 'In the remaining two years, I think they will have enough chances to get into the higher-ranking management jobs and more senior editorial jobs to keep the spirit going.' Senior staff who have left RTHK include the head of the television unit, assistant director Maria Wan Ying-kwai, who has moved to the United States. Two executive producers from the education television area, Louis Tong Tung-loy and Calvin Wong King-keung, have both emigrated to Canada. RTHK, which has editorial independence from the Government, came close to realising long-held ambitions of distancing itself even further from the administration and civil service in 1991 with a corporatisation plan. But China objected and the Government did not pursue the issue. Editorial independence was not the only issue at stake for RTHK in becoming a corporation - efficiency would be improved by cutting away a lot of red tape which encumbers it as a civil service operation. A revamped RTHK would attempt to join the ranks of the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which are not only corporations but enjoy reputations of impartiality to the governments which fund them. Ms Cheung remains resolute RTHK should retain its independence post-1997. 'I believe that our staff, can stand firm on the grounds of impartiality and press freedom,' she said. She refuses to hold discussions with Beijing on the issue, saying nobody should have to ask for permission to uphold press freedom. Informal discussions have been held between staff and Chinese officials, according to Ms Chueng. She said press freedom was written into the Basic Law, Joint Declaration and China's constitution. RTHK signed an agreement with the Broadcasting Authority on Tuesday which formally required it to adhere to a Code of Practice. It had been exempt from the code, which regulates standards on commercial radio and television programming, but said it had followed the requirements.