RTHK was publicly censured yesterday for breaching the electoral rules in the run-up to a district council by-election. The broadcaster had invited only one of the three candidates to be a speaker on a current affairs programme. The Electoral Affairs Commission said Radio Television Hong Kong had breached the 'equal time' and 'no unfair advantage' principles after legislator Yeung Yiu-chung, one of the three candidates contesting the Shamshuipo District Council by-election in Mei Foo constituency on April 6, was invited to take part on its City Forum programme on March 23. Under the guidelines covering the 1999 polls, broadcasters were required to apply the two principles to political parties with candidates contesting an election. Mr Yeung, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, was invited to be a speaker on an edition of the forum focusing on the global impact of the US-led war in Iraq. Tai Keen-man, head of RTHK's corporate communications unit, said it was the first time the broadcaster had been censured for breaching electoral rules. 'City Forum is a current affairs programme, not an election broadcast, and therefore should not be covered by the 'equal time' principle. 'The 'equal time principle' should be confined to election broadcasts during election periods,'' Mr Tai said. 'The election guidelines should be set out in a reasonable manner. It would be impossible for meaningful current affairs discussion to proceed during election periods if the 'equal time' principle applies to all programmes.'' Commission chairman Justice Woo Kwok-hing said RTHK had either completely misunderstood or had deliberately flouted the relevant provisions of the guidelines. 'As a public organisation, RTHK's breach, whatever the reason may be, is inexcusable and should be censured,' he said. Political commentator Andy Ho On-tat said the 'equal time'' principle was too rigid. 'But RTHK has to explain whether Mr Yeung had the relevant expertise to qualify as a speaker on that topic.'' Mr Tai said Mr Yeung was invited to attend the forum as deputy chairman of Legco's education panel. 'Mr Yeung was invited because there was a concern over how the local education sector could use the war as a civic education topic.''