Guidelines for RTHK staff were announced yesterday, following accusations of bias. Broadcasting chief Cheung Man-yee said the rules would boost the autonomy and professional standards of the station. The 45-page guide defines fundamental principles such as impartiality, taste and decency. It outlines a 'referral system' for staff to seek advice from senior editors, or the director of broadcasting if necessary, to decide on difficult editorial issues. Among a list of seven such issues are whether to interview criminals or commission opinion polls on political issues. The guidelines also spelt out the role of phone-in programme and talk-show presenters who 'may question, comment, challenge or criticise to stimulate' discussion. But there is 'no place for personal bias or prejudice' and they must treat the subject matter and their callers fairly. Ms Cheung said the rules were based on well-established practices and internationally recognised journalistic principles. The rules follow accusations early this year from pro-Beijing politician Xu Simin that RTHK was not objective. Former provisional legislator Wong Siu-yee made similar claims. 'The code is now made public and those with a view on [RTHK] may read it and that will help them understand our operations,' Ms Cheung said. But she said the guidelines would not end the problem. Union staff said the guidelines were acceptable. They did not think editorial autonomy would be affected. Mr Wong said the guidelines did not solve the fundamental problem of the RTHK: its role and status. 'Everybody now assumes it's a media organisation. It's utterly unreasonable and unfair to privately-run media organisations. 'RTHK should return to its status as a government department whose role is to promote government policies.' Legco information technology and broadcasting panel chairman Sin Chung-kai was worried the guidelines could be tightened by Ms Cheung's successors. Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting Kwong Ki-chi would not rule out amendments in accordance with 'social changes', but dismissed Mr Sin's worries as 'hypothetical'. 'This document is drafted by RTHK staff and we support it after consulting legal advice and the Intellectual Property Department,' Mr Kwong said. Independent Raymond Ho Chung-tai hoped the guidelines would mean programme hosts would allow expression of diverse opinion.