The time has come to take a balanced view of balance. Balance, in the sense of objectivity, like history, is bunk. It is, certainly, the only interpretation of balance for reporters, whose role is to present the facts and nothing but the facts. That is their job description: in the face of pressure, doggedly and unswervingly to pursue objectivity. But in the real world of politics, commentary and entertainment, objectivity is for sitters on the fence. Balance is for the on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand breed of newspaper editorialists who are expected to face towards Beijing, Mecca, Jerusalem or Lower Albert Road, bang their foreheads on the earth and mutter the mantra 'Objectivity, Objectivity, Objectivity' five times a day. Real Men don't practise objectivity. Objectivity is for wimps and straight men. Balance, for politicians, is something different entirely. It is the art of weighing the pros and cons carefully, and then dispensing with objectivity and coming down on the side of the argument most likely to suit a particular political agenda. It is no accident that the French word balancer means to hurl or to chuck out. Balance for satirists is different again. It is the art of weighing the pros and cons carefully and then coming down on whatever side of the argument is most likely to annoy the politicians. Balance to the satirists, in short, is to be even-handedly unfair to everyone. We have, in the small but rounded shape of provisional legislator Wong Siu-yee, a useful example of the politician. Mr Wong is to file a written question next week, in what the Government Information Services now delights in calling ProLegco, asking if RTHK has breached the terms of its 'organisational agreement' by producing such programmes as Talkabout, Headliners and Free Wind, Free Phone. The agreement, between the government broadcaster and the Broadcasting, Culture and Sports Bureau, obliges RTHK to provide 'fair, balanced and objective news, public affairs and general programmes' and to 'inform, educate and entertain the public'. But Mr Wong wonders if the station's political programmes are really 'fair, balanced and objective'. It is unfair, he believes, for Headliners to ridicule the Chief Executive by presenting him as someone who repeats 'China will be good if Hong Kong is good' when asked about livelihood issues. There are enough other programmes on other stations monitoring and criticising the Government, he argues, so why should RTHK follow suit? Mr Wong was not known for his propensity to take the same line when RTHK lampooned Chris Patten. But that is his privilege as a politician. It is not consistency a politician asks for, but 'balance' - the right to attack your political opponent and hope you can get away with it, without being attacked for the same offence in return. However, Mr Wong is quite simply wrong about RTHK. Firstly, there are nothing like enough programmes on private stations 'monitoring and criticising' the Government, let alone lampooning government officials. Tung Chee-hwa, to his credit, has said he does not mind being criticised, or even burned in effigy - although he takes a less tolerant view of immolating effigies of the Beijing leadership. But most civil servants and politicians tend to take themselves far too seriously. What Hong Kong desperately needs is for RTHK or one of the private stations to introduce a local version of Britain's hard-hitting but hilarious Spitting Image, where grotesque puppets of the rich, the powerful and the royal mercilessly lampoon their subjects. It is time to elevate lese-majeste into an art form, not to whine when somebody makes a particularly telling joke about the Chief Executive. But Mr Wong has also got it wrong about the role of RTHK as an institution. The agreement to be fair, balanced, objective and informative obliges RTHK to avoid one-sided and uncritical promotion of the Government. Its duty is to expose the warts as well as the beauty spots. Most important of all, the agreement says RTHK must entertain. Satire is the ideal way to inform through entertainment. And in a culture which finds criticism of its leaders so difficult and embarrassing, what better safety valve than a regular dose of irreverence and disrespect?