A survey of world practices conducted by CCTV shows how out of place Hong Kong is when it comes to broadcasting the national anthem. While the study found that no broadcaster elsewhere in the world broadcasts a national anthem at dinner time, Hong Kong started doing so at close to that time slot from October 2004, a month after CCTV ceased the practice. Hong Kong was probably not covered by the CCTV survey, which was conducted to justify its decision to move the time of broadcasting the national anthem from before the 7pm evening news cast to 5.55am. The local broadcast times - before the evening newscasts at 6pm and 6.30pm respectively on ATV Home and TVB Jade, and before 9pm and 10pm on Cable TV's two news channels - are just before and after dinner. But that does not make Hong Kong's timing any better. Playing the national anthem is a solemn affair. The relevant national laws stipulate that it should be played while the national flag is being raised and that one should stand during the process. Playing the tune day after day on television at times when the audience is going about their daily chores trivialises what should have been a dignified activity. The Hong Kong stations are airing the anthem as background music to a government-produced video aimed at promoting patriotism. This is part of the government's answer to complaints that Hong Kong people are not patriotic enough. There is nothing wrong with playing the national anthem on television. But the practice is an unsophisticated way of promoting love for one's country. Healthy patriotism can only be the result of a long process of critical appreciation of the country's past, present and future. At best, the videos have familiarised the public with the tune and lyrics of the national anthem. However, it does not make Hong Kong people feel closer to their mainland compatriots, any more than an upbeat video about this city would make mainlanders love it. Successive surveys have found that Hong Kong Chinese feel proud of their national identity but are critical of the mainland's high level of corruption and record on human rights. They have a moderately high level of emotional awareness of what is happening on the mainland but are hazy about conditions on the ground, especially in more remote parts of the country. Hong Kong people should be encouraged to learn more about the mainland. But this is best done by fuelling their interest in China beyond Hong Kong's borders with some informative but creative programming, not by the playing of patriotic videos on prime time television. CCTV sensibly decided to move the national anthem away from the coveted peak time slot. If the state broadcaster can take this pragmatic approach, there is no reason why the Hong Kong government cannot do the same.