A public broadcaster should be solely funded by the government in its first three years of operation, according to reports from focus groups under an independent review committee. But within 10 years, the station should generate annual revenue equal to 20 per cent of its expenditure, sources close to the committee said. Under the proposals, the broadcaster would have a three-year budget cycle, similar to educational institutions under the University Grants Committee. This would offer the broadcaster a stable flow of income. The focus groups initially estimated the broadcaster would cost about HK$800 million a year, since it was expected to have its own TV channel rather than having its programmes aired by commercial stations. The independent review committee was established in January to look into the future of public broadcasting. Three focus groups were set up last month to study governance, accountability and funding. Sources said revenue could also come from programme sales, sponsorships and donations. 'But the sponsorships will be limited on a corporate level. The sponsor of a programme should not be a particular product,' one said. The focus groups would recommend an 'ownership scheme' to raise funds from the public. 'This is kind of a donation programme. For example, members of the public will be given some kind of recognition that they are an owner of the station by simply paying HK$10 or HK$20 a year. This can give people a sense of belonging, that this is a broadcaster of Hong Kong people. 'If one-third of its audience, such as 300,000 people, contribute to the scheme, it can generate a few million dollars and the amount will grow year by year,' the source said. Eric Poon Tat-pui, a spokesman for the RTHK Programme Staff Union, said it would be ideal to peg funding for the broadcaster to a specific rate, such as a percentage of government rates. 'This will give the station a stable source of income and the public a strong sense that they have paid for the broadcasting service.'