It was a case of history repeating itself when a senior RTHK executive presided over an internal panel discussion on the issue of corporatisation last month. Before the panellists spoke, Assistant Director of Broadcasting Tai Keen-man said: 'Staff who joined us in recent years may not be familiar with the issue. That's why we have invited a panel of speakers to share their views with us.' Joining RTHK in 1982 as a junior programme officer, Mr Tai has been a witness to and later became heavily involved in the debate. More than 20 years on, he is an assistant director overseeing renewed debate on the issue, but now in the context of the controversy over the axing of RTHK's horse-racing programme and an annual pop song contest. Yesterday, RTHK organised a public consultation on the way forward. Central to the discussion on ways to improve service quality was the same question left unanswered over the past 20 years: should RTHK go independent? To some, the answer is clear. According to a poll commissioned by RTHK, 58 per cent of respondents said it should change from a government department to a public broadcaster with an independent management board. And if RTHK were to become a public broadcaster, 45 per cent said it should still be funded by taxpayers. An overwhelming 78 per cent believed RTHK should play the role of a watchdog rather than government mouthpiece. Fifty-eight per cent said RTHK should not blow the trumpet for government policies. The findings should not come as a surprise. That a clear majority favour RTHK becoming an independently managed public broadcaster shows they want it to serve the public and not the government. The strong aspirations for an independent watchdog of government policies and operations is an indication of the high esteem in which statutory bodies tasked with checking official malpractices are held. These include the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Ombudsman's Office, which have gained reputations for fighting bribery and maladministration in the public service. It is obvious Hong Kong values its system of checks and balances, both inside and outside government. Despite the phenomenal improvement in Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's popularity rating, the public demand for such effective monitoring remains strong. The survey findings should serve as a reminder to Mr Tsang and his team if it plans to review the role of RTHK. There was speculation after Mr Tsang took over the top job, that he would play hardball with RTHK to demonstrate his 'strong governance'. Mr Tsang's comment during the chief executive election campaign that he didn't like RTHK covering horse racing was seen as a curtain-raiser to a fresh tussle between the ruling echelon and the public broadcaster. At one point, rumours were rife that the government might rethink its long-standing opposition to hiving off RTHK. It was swiftly denied. While giving no hints on a change of mind over the status of RTHK, it is clear Mr Tsang has adopted a proactive strategy towards the media as a whole. Over the past few weeks, he and senior officials have largely dictated the public agenda, focusing the public's attention on a series of their initiatives through the media. With the role of the media becoming critically important to Mr Tsang's governance strategy, it is unlikely he will be prepared to boost the independence of RTHK through corporatisation. It looks likely the long-running dispute over the status of RTHK will feature as an occasional blip in the political dramas of the city. With the ending of the script unwritten, both sides will try hard not to upset the delicate balance between quasi-independence and government supervision over RTHK's role.