RTHK must continue to monitor the government or lose all credibility, says the chairman of a new advisory board overseeing the public broadcaster's operations. Lester Huang, a solicitor, also denied that the 11-member committee he heads is a 'backstage ruler', saying RTHK's editorial independence remains intact under its new charter that spells out its relations with the government. 'RTHK must continue its role monitoring the government,' Huang said. 'Otherwise there will be nothing left of its credibility. It should do what it has always done and should not be interfered with.' Huang's comment was an attempt to address fears raised by critics who want RTHK to become independent of the government. Under the RTHK charter announced in August, the broadcaster will remain a government department but have editorial independence. A board of advisers was created, which critics saw as a possible 'backstage ruler' that would interfere with operations. Huang said the board was only an advisory body and had no real power. 'It is not appropriate to describe the board as a backstage ruler. We don't have a role as a ruler. We only co-operate with the director of broadcasting.' Amid rumours that director of broadcasting Franklin Wong Wah-kay - the RTHK head criticised by activists for failing to defend the broadcaster's independence - will not have his contract renewed when it expires next year, Huang said any changes in the RTHK leadership would not affect the advisory board's operation. Huang said that the board, which met for the first time in September, had yet to examine in detail the performance of RTHK, but the general view of members was that it should be a platform to serve and reflect views from all sectors of society. On how RTHK should cover political controversies, Huang said as long as public affairs programmes were conducted in a fair and factual manner and are not in breach of any laws, the public should find them acceptable since it was what a public broadcaster should be doing. But he would not comment on the Headliner political satire television programme that regularly pokes fun at the government. The programme has been criticised repeatedly by government allies, who consider such programmes inappropriate for a government broadcaster. Huang said that as a public broadcaster, RTHK should work on programmes covering social topics that may be skipped over by commercial stations, and should use its independence to produce programmes dealing with controversial public issues including social and moral problems. Ahead of another round of familiarisation tours to RTHK's premises by the advisory board's members next week, Janet Mak Lai-ching, chairwoman of the RTHK programme staff union, said she regretted the decision made by the board to keep its quarterly meetings closed. 'If Lester Huang says he is not a backstage ruler and will not interfere with editorial independence, why is there a need to conduct proceedings behind closed doors?' she said. Mak said staff remained concerned even though the board had promised to publicise the agenda and the minutes of the meetings.