RTHK invited to provide analog TV service

Updated: 2015-04-03 08:44

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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The government has invited Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) to provide an analog TV service to take over Asia Television's (ATV) programs from April 1 next year until 2020.

However, whether RTHK would be able to produce enough content to do this remains questionable.

Cheung Siu-wai, senior lecturer at School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University, who has worked with both ATV and RTHK, said on Thursday that although RTHK could use programs from its digital channels, RTHK's current capacity is unable to handle 24-hour broadcasting. The government would need to make a big commitment to the station.

Outsourcing would be one option as this had been a common practice for RTHK since 2000, Cheung said.

However, to maintain a decent free-to-air TV station, RTHK would need to step up its efforts in producing entertainment programs. This would require significant financial backing.

"Unless there are drastic changes in RTHK, it will be difficult for it to fulfill the task," Cheung said.

This also involves the question of justification when proposals are passed to the Legislative Council (LegCo). Lawmakers may think it unnecessary to commit public resources to a project that will only run for four years, Cheung predicted.

Peter Kwan Wai, former senior staff member at ATV and current senior teaching fellow in the Department of Media and Communication at City University of Hong Kong, agreed on the possibility of more government input. He said RTHK could copy ATV's practice by repeating programs from its archive. This could lower the required daily production from six to eight hours.

Meanwhile, he said there was nothing stopping RTHK from taking over ATV's analog frequency.

Legislator Charles Peter Mok expressed his disappointment on previous "squeezes" on RTHK's development because the city now needs to rely on the station.

Last year, LegCo voted against a HK$6.1 billion budget request from the government to fund a new headquarters for RTHK. Lawmakers said at the time that the plan was too costly and Hong Kong did not need any more TV channels.

Mok said a lack of resources was the most pressing issue. He urged LegCo to arrange a special meeting to address this soon.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung admitted this was a "big challenge" for RTHK. But So said he believes the public broadcaster is equal to the task.

The government will set up an interdepartmental task force to resolve various issues for the broadcasting arrangements with RTHK.

RTHK management declined to comment.


(HK Edition 04/03/2015 page10)