Performing arts companies that rely on millions of dollars of public money to survive are being asked to justify the huge subsidies. The Provisional Urban Council is holding meetings to find out whether the three companies it subsidises by up to 97 per cent can be made more financially viable. The meetings are being held with the Hong Kong Dance Company, which receives $26.9 million a year in subsidies, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra which draws $42.5 million, and the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre which gets $22.6 million. Although the groups say they do not fear losing their payouts, all agree changes must be made if they are to draw bigger audiences. 'Each company has its individual problems and we have to see how we can improve them,' Hong Kong Dance Company manager Ophelia Lau Chi-chung said. 'We need to know how to reach the Chinese dance community. We need more education for young people and we need better publicity.' A meeting last week discussed the company's future, following a similar review of the 90-member Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. A review of the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre is scheduled for September. For the 37-strong dance company, attendance rates have leapt this year. Almost 60 per cent of seats are filled compared to 40 per cent in 1996 to 1997 - but numbers are still low compared to the more than 90 per cent attendance achieved in the early 1990s. Fewer than 10,000 people went to the company's 16 paid performances this year, compared to an average of 14,000 between 1992 and 1995. Each group also gives free performances to schools and community groups which boost audience numbers to more than 60,000. But for every ticket sold by the dance group, the Government contributes $346 - or 97 per cent of the cost. The situation is similar for the orchestra with subsidies of 95 per cent or $588 a head. Senior manager William Yan King-keung said musicians were performing television theme tunes to try to attract younger audiences as a way of reviving interest. 'The main problem is the younger generation has no chance to become acquainted with traditional Chinese music,' he said. 'Overseas, it's part of the school curriculum but there is no Chinese music included here, just a basic knowledge of Western music. 'I think the Education Department is changing that, but in the past it hasn't done enough,' he said.