The government said it would launch a public consultation on the future of public service broadcasting by the end of this year that should last about six months. Speaking on an RTHK talk show yesterday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang said he hoped the consultation would be a detailed one and look at the issue from different perspectives. 'Some RTHK staff might worry the restructuring exercise is the equivalent of dismantling the station,' Mr Ma said. 'I don't want them to look at the issue from this angle. The move could help to improve the quality of the public broadcasting services.' Mr Ma said he would personally discuss the issue with the 18 district councils, consult RTHK's staff and hold public forums to engage the community. The public would be asked to help decide whether RTHK can be transformed into the new public broadcaster, among other questions. RTHK's fate has been uncertain since March when a government-appointed committee mapped out proposals for a statutory independent public broadcaster, but ruled out turning RTHK into such an entity. The move sparked fears the government was trying to erode RTHK's editorial independence. Mr Ma also discussed the recent controversies that have affected RTHK's senior management. He said the arrest of assistant broadcasting director Cheung Man-sun for alleged drink driving may have damaged the station's image. He said the government would handle Mr Cheung's case under existing civil service regulations. In July, former director of broadcasting Chu Pui-hing stepped down when photographs of him hiding behind a karaoke hostess were splashed in newspapers. His job, which pays HL$161,800 a month, was opened to outsiders for the first time, and applications closed on Friday. Mr Ma refused to disclose how many people had applied for the job, saying only that the job would be challenging.