RTHK has again been criticised by Beijing supporters following revelations that it broadcasts fewer government advertisements than commercial stations. Studies by the Audit Commission found that the airtime given by RTHK radio for government messages was only one-third that of Commercial Radio and Metro Radio. Under licensing requirements, each channel of the commercial stations must air two 'announcements of public interest' an hour. The announcements may feature government initiatives or be routine reminders on crime, safety or public health issues. But RTHK has only a verbal agreement with the administration on such announcements. RTHK only achieves the target set for the commercial stations when the airtime of its three Chinese language channels is combined. The inconsistency is expected to be brought up by the Audit Commission in a report to the Legislative Council later this month. RTHK has long been criticised by pro-Beijing figures for being too critical of the Government. Xu Simin, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member, has openly attacked the RTHK current affairs television programme Headliners for ridiculing Chinese leaders and Tung Chee-hwa. Ma Lik, local deputy to the National People's Congress, said that RTHK had not done enough to publicise government messages. He said it was a waste for the administration to allocate a huge amount of money to RTHK each year if the station did not use its airtime to publicise messages. RTHK has received $515 million for 2001-02. Mr Ma said RTHK should devote much more airtime to allow a detailed introduction of new government policies. 'They have a slot for political parties and the public,' he said. 'They should spare some airtime for government officials.' He said RTHK should also produce a programme on the Falun Gong sect, which he said was also a matter of public concern. Assistant Director of Broadcasting Shiu Lo-sin said RTHK produced dozens of special programmes to help departments promote their events. 'It's unfair to conclude that we don't support government publicity just by adding up the public interest announcements airtime.' A government source said: 'If we promote the Government too much, pro-democracy people will say we have made a U-turn and are not independent enough.' Mr Shiu said RTHK was not bound by any licensing requirement. He said the verbal agreement with the Government Information Services did not specify whether the two announcements every hour should be made by each channel or RTHK as a whole. He said RTHK had entered into a new agreement to ensure that its airtime on such announcements would not be less than that of commercial stations.