TV RTHK-style: is this what will replace ATV's programmes?

Public broadcaster fills the gaps in commercial television programming, its head of television says, with shows to promote reading and writing and explore food ingredients

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 5:47pm

As the broadcaster that's been lined up to take over commercial broadcaster ATV's channels, RTHK has some way to go. 

Its flagship television channel broadcasts for just eight-and-a-half hours a day five days a week, and all day at weekends (its other channels relay China Central Television programmes and show live broadcasts of Legislative Council proceedings). One in four Hongkongers cannot receive RTHK TV. It cannot provide ratings for any of its programming. And it is running at maximum capacity given its existing resources. 

Moreover, it sees its remit as being to "provide alternative TV programming which focuses on arts, culture, information and education", says RTHK TV controller Kirindi Chan Man-kuen.

No wonder, then, that an RTHK spokeswoman has said she has no details about its plans for expansion to fill the void that will be left by commercial broadcaster Asia Television (ATV), whose licence will not be renewed when it expires in April 2016 and whose two channels could go off air months before that unless it receives an injection of funds.

Still, Chan is clear on one thing: "We will not use public money to compete with commercial TV stations."

She adds: “While drama shows have many breathtaking plot twists, there are many things that are happening in society which are worth the public’s knowing. We can compensate for what is lacking in commercial TV stations.”

We can compensate for what is lacking in commercial TV stations
Kirindi Chan

So what sort of programming is the public broadcaster making for its RTHK TV 31 channel? Food Wise Plus 2015 is one example.

Chan says: “The show is one of the examples of our informative programming. The 13-episode series adopts food ingredients as the theme. From how the food ingredient is planted and how it can be cooked to what nutritional value it has, an episode explores all the aspects of a single food ingredient. Nutritionists and chefs are on the show.

“One episode introduces bitter melon. Students from a kindergarten participated in the programme. We set a challenge for two team of chefs to cook a dish based on bitter melon that can appeal to children’s tastes. The show format takes the form of competition in which the children decide which team wins. Other episodes also adopt similar interesting formats.”

Another RTHK production is Outstanding Chinese Writers, the second series of which will be shown later this year. Chan acknowledges Hong Kong does not have a vibrant reading culture, but says RTHK wanted to "take up the challenge of making the show to boost the culture of reading and writing".

Production of the series has been tendered to outside producers "to give them a platform to showcase their work", Chan says. 

RTHK's television division will occupy half of its planned but much delayed new headquarters in Tseung Kwan O, and it plans to roll out a further 22 digital TV transmitters by 2019 to expand its reach to 99 per cent of the population.

Still, for now, Chan says: “We are limited by shortage of space, staff and budget [and cannot] expand beyond [our limited] programming."