The independent panel examining the future of public broadcasting in Hong Kong has a rare opportunity to bolster the cause of good governance. As the panel prepares to release its recommendations, there are encouraging signs it will rise to the challenge. As we report today, the panel hopes to break new ground in developing a governance structure that seeks to ensure both government and public have a role to play in determining who should lead a public broadcaster. Much as people like to have a public broadcaster independent of the government, this will remain an unattainable dream for as long as it has to rely on public funding. In Hong Kong's current political context, it is also difficult to see how the administration can be barred from a say on how the public broadcaster will be run. The panel artfully split the difference. Its governance subgroup has floated the idea of designating specific sectors to nominate some members of the board of the future public broadcaster. The proposal marks a major departure from the established practice of having all members of statutory boards appointed by the government without formal public input. While this raises a question as to which sectors should have the privilege of nominating candidates, the main thrust of the proposal is worth supporting. As long as RTHK remains a government department, people both inside and outside government will view with suspicion its self-proclaimed mission as a public broadcaster. Yet, even if our future public broadcaster ceased to be part of government, its independence could still be challenged if the government were to retain the power to appoint all members of its governing board. The subgroup's proposal represents a pragmatic means of resolving a difficult issue - enhancing the independence of the future public broadcaster while allowing the government some leverage over its operation. The proposal is by no means flawless. For one thing, there are pros and cons about retiring board members forming a screening committee to decide who should replace them. The arrangement has the advantage of barring the government from determining which of the candidates nominated by the designated sectors will join the board. The disadvantage of having outgoing members anoint new ones is that it might lead to the formation of a self-perpetuating clique. Perhaps the panel could consider learning a lesson from the Arts Development Council. By law, all its members are appointed by the government. By convention, some are elected by arts groups and then appointed by the government. Introduced in the last years of British rule, the arrangement was a major step in democratising the composition of advisory committees. But it has not been replicated since then. It would be a mark of political courage if the government were to apply these principles in forming the board of our future public broadcaster. Officials may fear this would lead to similar requests for other boards. Our view is that this is not a reform to be feared but one to be embraced. The government should seek to enhance the voices of the public on those bodies, which play a major role in administering Hong Kong. On funding, the panel has proposed that the future public broadcaster be substantially funded by the government but increasingly be required to raise money by selling rights to its huge archive. Short of imposing a licence fee, that would seem a feasible solution. The only drawback is that it would mean putting the broadcaster at the financial mercy of the government. A possible alternative would be to peg funding for the broadcaster at a specified proportion of a tax, such as rates. That was how the now-defunct municipal councils used to be funded. Building the architecture of our public broadcaster is a major exercise with long-lasting implications. It is critical we get it right. The review panel has produced a credible framework for discussion. It is time for the public to refine it so Hong Kong will be served by a truly independent and well-funded public broadcaster.