After a hiatus of 21/2 years, during which the government gave no indication as to what its plans were for public service broadcasting, it has finally decided to designate RTHK as such a broadcaster and to continue it as a government department, with strong guarantees of editorial freedom. This may well be the best way of moving forward. The committee set up to review public service broadcasting, in January 2006, had recommended in its March 2007 report that a new, non-governmental body be established as Hong Kong's public service broadcaster and specifically opposed giving such a role to RTHK. But this was a peculiar recommendation. In fact, the committee's position on RTHK was strange from beginning to end, with its chairman, Raymond Roy Wong, insisting initially that its work had nothing to do with RTHK, then saying that there would be a conflict of interest for any RTHK person to serve on his committee, and finally recommending that RTHK should not be the public service broadcaster. It appears that the government has accepted the committee's rationale on Hong Kong's need for a public service broadcaster. Also, after years of uncertainty, the government now promises to issue a charter that will set out its relationship with RTHK and, in the words of Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, 'entrench the editorial independence arrangements'. As Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has pointed out, RTHK 'occupies a special place in the hearts of many people in Hong Kong'. It would be a shame to throw away the RTHK brand, which has been built up over 80 years, and start from scratch. Besides, surveys show that RTHK is regarded within Hong Kong as the most credible electronic media and, internationally, it is seen as a symbol of freedom of speech. Keeping RTHK and developing it as Hong Kong's public service broadcaster is therefore to be welcomed. The review committee had proposed the creation of a new statutory body independent of the government, like the Housing Authority or the Hospital Authority. The government, for whatever reason, rejected this. Perhaps it did not want to bring the issue to the legislature, where so many people have such strong views on the topic. But studies of public service broadcasters elsewhere show that, even if the government funds the broadcaster, there needs to be an arm's-length relationship. This is something the government needs to clarify when it consults the public later this year. Another issue is the proposal to set up a board to give advice to RTHK. This has raised suspicions that the chief executive, who will appoint its members, will use it as a means to control the broadcaster. The functions of such a board will have to be clearly delineated by the government. Also, there is no reason why all its members have to be appointed by the chief executive. One means of diluting suspicion is by having some of its members proposed by non-governmental bodies. For example, the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong could be ex officio members of the board. This issue, too, should be discussed by the public during the two-month consultation period. There is also the matter of promoting government policies. Actually, there is no need for RTHK to do this, as the administration is fully capable of doing the job itself. RTHK only has to provide time for the airing of programmes where government officials - and members of the public - can discuss policies. Or the Information Services Department can create programmes to be aired, explaining government policies. All in all, the decision to make RTHK the public service broadcaster is a good one. But the details need to be filled in and debated. Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.