Hong Kong’s troubled public broadcaster will no longer be allowed to produce the revenue-generating July 1 handover anniversary show, featuring the annual flag-raising ceremony and cocktail reception, for the first time since 1997.
A government spokesman said on Saturday the dominant free-to-air broadcaster TVB would take over the job from RTHK, since it had already been appointed to produce programmes to promote the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
The series would be launched by the government’s Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education and the Hong Kong United Youth Association.
“These include the flag-raising ceremony and cocktail reception on July 1,” the government statement read. “We hope the annual celebration for such an important day, when the Basic Law was implemented, could serve as a curtain-raiser for the series of promotional activities to mark the 30th anniversary of its promulgation.
“The Home Affairs Department notified relevant departments and organisations on June 5 to attend a preparation meeting,” the spokesman said. “The authority had also informed RTHK about the decision.
The spokesman said TVB would be responsible for decorating the venue, programme production and telecasting. According to the minutes of June 5 meeting between the committee and the association, the Hong Kong United Youth Association applied for a HK$7.8 million (US$1 million) subsidy from the committee for the promotional project. The 15-minute show for the ceremonies on July 1 is budgeted at HK$3.5 million.
It also listed out the criteria for the contractor, which needs to be a free-to-air broadcaster that could reach a wide range of audience. The contractor should also be able to create programmes with high standards in a short period of time.
“The broadcaster should be equipped with rich historical information related to the Basic Law and also with a strong creative team,” the minute reads.
The chief executive and senior government officials attend the event every year to celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The flag-raising ceremony is held at Golden Bauhinia Square outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre at 8am, and is followed by a reception.
RTHK confirmed it was no longer responsible for the official production, but added it would still be responsible for broadcasting to local televisions and the Information Services Department.
Insiders said the change was decided by the government a few months ago, and RTHK reviewed the financial implications. The public broadcaster relied on revenue generated by producing programmes for various government departments.
“This has been one of the major productions of the year that could cost at least tens of thousands Hong Kong dollars,” a source said. “The government’s withdrawal might affect the operation of other programmes.”
The public broadcaster is currently the subject of a management review led by civil servants, Hong Kong’s commerce bureau revealed last month, following a series of controversies over content.
RTHK chief Leung Ka-wing defended the show in March, but 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.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said the line of questioning had been a violation of Beijing’s “one-China” policy, which considers the self-governing island part of China.
Additional reporting by Natalie Wong
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