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RTHK to be public service broadcaster in HK
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Radio Television Hong Kong ( RTHK) will be retained as a government department and will serve as the public service broadcaster in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government announced Tuesday.

The new RTHK will be given new resources to enhance its service, and editorial independence will be maintained, said Rita Lau, secretary for Commerce Economic Development of the HKSAR government.

Measures will be introduced to ensure greater public accountability and oversight of its programming, she said.

She said a recent Government survey found 60 percent of respondents felt RTHK should be maintained as it is or enhance its operation. Only 20 percent were in favor of establishing a new organization to replace it.

Staff recruitment

The recruitment of civil servants to fill vacancies at RTHK will resume, she said, adding that civil servants currently employed under agreement terms may be transferred to permanent terms.

Non-civil service contract staff may also apply for vacant posts according to prevailing civil service policy.

The Government will issue a charter covering all the main aspects of the RTHK operation.

"The charter will set out the relationship between the Government and the new RTHK and entrench editorial independence arrangements," Lau added.

A broad-based board of advisers, comprising representatives from different sectors to be appointed by the Chief Executive, will be appointed to advise RTHK's director on a wide range of issues, such as editorial policy and program standard review.

Resource allocation

RTHK will be given sufficient financial, staffing and spectrum resources enabling it to enhance operations, including the provision of digital radio and television channels as platforms for more local original content production, said Lau.

There will be more overseas cooperation to broadcast a greater variety of international radio and television programs. Use will be made of the spectrum to relay national radio and television programs to enhance understanding of mainland developments.

A Community Broadcasting Involvement Fund will be set up under RTHK to provide financial support for community groups to participate in broadcasting and contents production.

"To complement the new RTHK's expanded scope of service, we will proceed with the capital works project to re-provision RTHK's current inadequate headquarters to a new Broadcasting House in Tseung Kwan O," Lau said.

Public consultation

To seek public views on how best RTHK should fulfill the mission as a public service broadcaster, the Government will issue a consultation paper on Oct. 5 and launch a two-month public consultation.

People can give their views on the public purposes of RTHK, the programming direction that RTHK should take, the ways and means to evaluate its performance as well as to enhance its accountability.

The Government will also arrange focus group discussions and consult lawmakers.

Win-win arrangement

HKSAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang said Tuesday that the new arrangements are good for the public, RTHK and its staff.

"The public will be able to enjoy services of high quality and greater diversity from RTHK," he said.

The station will be tasked to launch digital TV and radio services, promote community participation in broadcasting, and provide multi-cultural programs and national broadcasting, he said.

"RTHK will be given new opportunities and resources to expand into new areas of service, thus strengthening its role as the public service broadcaster of Hong Kong. For RTHK staff, the new arrangement will mean greater job certainty, confirmation of editorial independence, and an improved production environment," said the chief executive.

(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2009)

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