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Embattled public broadcaster RTHK on Monday found out who would be leading a long-promised investigation into their governance: former Carrie Lam aide Jessie Ting. Photo: SCMP

Team investigating Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK’s governance to be led by former key Carrie Lam aide

  • The body, which will begin its work on July 15, will examine everything from the broadcaster’s finances to whether it is abiding by its governing charter
  • RTHK’s staff union immediately questioned Jessie Ting’s qualifications for the role, citing the possibility of a ‘hidden political agenda’
A former aide of Hong Kong’s leader has been tapped to lead a special team that will probe the governance of public broadcaster RTHK, following a series of controversies that forced the station to suspend a satirical show deemed offensive to the city’s police force.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which oversees the broadcaster, announced on Monday that Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei had been appointed director of the dedicated team, which will begin its work on July 15.

Ting previously served as permanent secretary of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s office, but left the post in September to become a director at the Development Bureau’s works branch.

Jessie Ting, a former postmaster general, has been tapped to lead the team investigating RTHK, prompting pushback from station staff who say her lack of media background makes her unqualified for the task. Photo: Handout

Ting’s team will include RTHK assistant director of broadcasting Albert Cheung Kin-wah, along with a group of civil servants and “post-retirement” contract staff with knowledge of broadcasting services, resources management or organisation management consulting.

Ting’s impartiality was immediately called into question by the RTHK Programme Staff Union.

In a statement, the union said it was concerned that Ting had “no experience in media, communications, or journalism”, and questioned why no members of the union were represented on her team.

Commerce minister calls on RTHK to review internal governance after watchdog rules satire ‘denigrated’ police

“We wonder if she has the required judgment and will to make a reasonable and fair review, or if there is some hidden political agenda,” the statement read.

The union also noted that when Ting was the city’s postmaster general, the Hongkong Post declined to deliver election leaflets deemed to be promoting “self-determination” in the run-up to the 2016 Legislative Council elections.

The RTHK review will cover administrative issues including financial control, human resources, and procurement, as well as the broader question of whether the broadcaster has abided by its governing charter.

RTHK first came under fire from Hong Kong’s police chief in February over an episode of long-running satire ‘Headliner’, which mocked the force. Photo: SCMP

The charter includes, among other major principles, a duty to engender a sense of citizenship and national identity through programmes that contribute to the understanding of the country and promote the concept of “one country, two systems”.

A Commerce and Economic Development Bureau spokesman said the team would be in communication with station staff to better understand the department’s operational needs.

“The dedicated team will not take part in any programme production or editorial decisions. The review is expected to be completed in about six months, and the dedicated team will submit a report to the [bureau],” a bureau statement read.

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Asked for comment, an RTHK spokesman said only that the station would “cooperate with the review team and provide assistance”.

The management review was initiated as the public broadcaster, with an operating budget of about HK$1 billion (US$129 million) a year, became the subject of intense controversy in recent months. A separate working group was also formed in May, under the RTHK Board of Advisers, to look into the broadcaster’s governance and editorial principles.

Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK apologises to police over satirical show that portrayed officers as trash and hoarding masks

The broadcaster was reprimanded for a February episode of the political satire show Headliner, which the Communications Authority ruled had “denigrated and insulted” the police force. While RTHK chief Leung Ka-wing defended the show in March, the station later offered a public apology and suspended the series, which had aired for three decades.

The broadcaster also came under fire for a March episode of news programme The Pulse, in which a World Health Organisation representative was pressed over the body’s stance on membership for Taiwan. Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said the line of questioning had been a violation of the “one-China” policy.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ex-aide to Lam heads probe into broadcaster