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Executive Council of Hong Kong

Plans to find RTHK a new home appear in doubt as government struggles to find roommates

Authorities still considering a plan for the city’s public broadcaster to share space with other departments, secretary for commerce and development says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 5:12pm

Plans to find a new home for Hong Kong’s public broadcaster appeared to hit a snag on Tuesday after the commerce minister cast doubt on a move to share a building with other government departments.

RTHK has been looking for a new headquarters since 2014, citing outdated infrastructure and overcrowding at its current location in Kowloon.

The broadcaster’s chief had floated the idea of sharing space but Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said finding other departments was difficult.

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“We are still considering whether RTHK can share a building with some government departments. But we have not identified any suitable partner,” Yau said in a Legislative Council meeting.

Three years ago, a HK$6.1 billion (US$781 million) proposal to build a new headquarters in Tseung Kwan O for the broadcaster was vetoed by the Legco’s public works committee. Most pro-establishment lawmakers had opposed the plan, citing its high cost.

This year, the station’s chief, Leung Ka-wing, broached the idea of sharing space with government departments as a way to save costs and better utilise land, but a concrete proposal has never been made.

Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday were doubtful of the future of RTHK, saying that it was not a priority of the government.

“The government couldn’t care less about RTHK,” Claudia Mo Man-ching, an independent legislator, said. “It is not a mouthpiece for the government as [authorities] hoped it would be, nor a genuine public broadcaster considering the political pressure it’s faced.”

She said the government had taken a back seat in the development of the broadcaster, adding that she was not hopeful a new building was on the horizon.

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The plan to build a new headquarters for RTHK was derived from its promised mission to fulfil the role of a public service broadcaster, featuring 24-hour television news, digital audio broadcasting and digital terrestrial television.

The station started three digital terrestrial television channels in 2014 and two analogue channels, including one taken over from the now defunct Asia Television in April 2016.

RTHK said the expansion and increase in original productions added to the need for a new building.

Last month, the broadcaster closed its remaining digital radio channels ahead of the deadline set by the Executive Council after failing to attract a significant audience in six years of operations.