Two television stations are likely to continue running programmes produced by public broadcaster RTHK, the Post has learned, although Hong Kong’s communications watchdog has dropped a decades-old requirement that free channels do so. Dominant free-to-air broadcaster TVB stopped showing RTHK’s programmes on Thursday, after the rule was dropped the previous day. But according to industry sources, its smaller rivals, ViuTV and Cable TV, will still run the public broadcaster’s shows. As part of their licence agreements, TVB had been required to broadcast 3½ hours of RTHK shows a week on its Chinese-language channels, and ViuTV to run 2½ hours. The Communications Authority on Wednesday announced that there was “no justifiable case” to continue enforcing the requirement , about eight weeks after TVB asked for the rule to be lifted. The authority noted that RTHK also had its own free TV channels. From Thursday, TVB stopped broadcasting seven RTHK shows, including the political programme Legco Review . The popular satirical show Headliner, scheduled for 6pm on Friday, would also not be shown on TVB, RTHK confirmed. All the programmes would continue to be shown on RTHK’s own channels and website. TVB is planning to extend its 6.30pm prime-time newscast from 30 minutes to an hour. It will also cover more news that is currently online only but there may also be more pre-recorded segments, according to sources. ViuTV reiterated that it welcomed the authority’s decision but did not say whether it would continue to broadcast RTHK programmes. Cable TV, which was not bound by the rule, said its English channel would continue to run RTHK productions. But the RTHK Programme Staff Union said TVB had a duty to run certain shows as it had always been exempted from paying a spectrum utilisation fee, unlike telecommunications operators. It estimated that the licence fee for TVB’s four channels could add up to nearly HK$400 million (US$51.5 million) annually. In 2018, Eliza Lee Man-ching, permanent secretary of commerce and economic development, said the waiving of spectrum utilisation fees allowed television stations to enjoy a “valuable public asset” for free. “The free TV licensees have the social responsibility to broadcast certain designated programmes per week … because they don’t need to pay any utilisation fee to use the free TV spectrum,” she said. The authority has not responded to inquiries. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau hinted that the spectrum fee would continue to be waived, noting that free-to-air broadcasters still had certain duties, including airing government announcements and advertisements. “Broadcasting RTHK programmes was only part of the requirement because RTHK did not have its own television channels at the time,” the bureau said. The requirement for free-TV stations to broadcast RTHK programmes was first introduced in 1990, when it did not operate its own television channels. That changed in 2014 when RTHK began operating three digital terrestrial TV channels.