Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (November 8):
It has been reported that the three buildings of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) at Broadcast Drive have been in use for nearly 40 years and are dilapidated, resulting in severe water seepage occuring during inclement weather. Moreover, the filming and production facilities are also insufficient to meet the demand. Some RTHK staff members have relayed to me that as their workload has increased substantially since RTHK launched the digital terrestrial television broadcasting service in 2014, coupled with a shortage of manpower and hardware, the quality and quantity of RTHK’s public broadcasting service have been affected. On the other hand, the funding proposal for the project to construct a New Broadcasting House of RTHK (the Project) did not obtain the support of the Public Works Subcommittee of this Council in 2014. The RTHK Programme Staff Union last year openly requested the Government to submit afresh to this Council a proposal for the Project, but there has been no progress so far. Moreover, it has been reported that the study on constructing a joint-user building for RTHK and the Government Laboratory was terminated last month, and the Government even downgraded the Project from Category B to Category C. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the reasons why it downgraded the Project to Category C, and whether there is an implementation schedule for the Project at present;
(2) whether it has examined if RTHK’s manpower and hardware are sufficient to cope with its operational needs; of the measures the Government has in place, before the New Broadcasting House is completed, to assist RTHK in addressing the problems of insufficient space and facilities with a view to mitigating the constraints faced by RTHK in its programme production and operation;
(3) of the number and total broadcasting hours of the television programmes produced by RTHK in each of the past five years, as well as the number of staff members and total working hours involved in producing such programmes and their average production cost per hour;
(4) as it has been reported that RTHK was granted an additional funding of more than $100 million upon taking up two analogue television channels in April last year, of the (i) dates on which the funds were granted to RTHK and (ii) details of how the funds have been used, including the additional amount of funds allocated to each of the relevant units under RTHK as well as the additional amount of funds and manpower deployed for various uses (set out in a table); and
(5) whether it has conducted planning for the long-term development of RTHK; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Government has always attached great importance to the development of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). In September 2009, the Government decided that RTHK should be tasked to take up the mission to serve as the public service broadcaster for Hong Kong. Since then, additional resources have been allocated to RTHK to implement various new initiatives.
In relation to the New Broadcasting House (New BH) Project, RTHK and the Architectural Services Department has since 2014 been reviewing the proposal, having regard to the concerns of the Public Works Subcommittee of the Legislative Council over the cost estimate and scope of the New BH Project, with a view to working out the most cost-effective proposal that can address Members’ concerns. RTHK has previously discussed the feasibility of constructing a joint-user building with the Government Laboratory. However, as they failed to reach consensus on a number of major technical issues, the Government Laboratory eventually decided not to consider co-using the site reserved by RTHK in Tseung Kwan O. RTHK will continue to explore feasible options and take forward the New BH Project in accordance with the established mechanism. As the option of constructing a joint-user building is more cost-effective than an independent New BH and optimises site utilisation, we will continue to explore along this direction.
My reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(1) Given the current progress, the New BH Project has been adjusted to Category C. This adjustment however would not hinder RTHK from continuing to explore feasible options (including the option of constructing a joint-user building with other departments) and taking forward the project in accordance with the established mechanism. There is no concrete timetable for the time being.
(2) RTHK reviews the deployment of resources (including manpower) from time to time to meet its operational needs. It also continuously explores measures to enhance efficiency (such as through internal redeployment of resources, streamlining and re-engineering of procedures) to ensure more efficient use of existing resources in coping with additional workload. RTHK will seek to secure additional resources in accordance with the existing mechanism where there is such a need.
In addition, in the meantime, RTHK continues to properly maintain and repair its premises on Broadcast Drive and undertake the required measures to improve its facilities and working environment, with a view to maintaining and enhancing the level of public service broadcasting.
For instance, with respect to accommodation, RTHK has over the past few years rented additional office space at the InnoCentre in Kowloon Tong and a commercial building on Mong Kok Road for meeting new service needs and alleviating space shortage. As for broadcasting facilities, RTHK has upgraded its radio continuity studio and production studio, refurbished its Central Control Room and procured a virtual set studio and additional production equipment for developing its digital terrestrial television (DTT) service over the past few years. In 2017-18, RTHK will proceed with upgrade works for various facilities/systems, such as the studio at the Educational Television Centre, TV post-production suite, on-air routing system and central on-air telephone routing system and Chinese news video production system.
(3) Details of the funding allocated, total hours of output, number of programmes produced, hours transmitted, number of civil service posts as well as cost per hour of output in respect of RTHK’s TV services over the past five years are detailed at Annex.
(4) Starting from April 2, 2016, RTHK commenced simulcasting its DTT programmes on the two analogue television channels vacated by Asia Television Limited.
In 2016-17, the revised provision for RTHK TV service was $513.8 million, representing an increase of $97.6 million over the actual expenditure in 2015-16, of which about $59 million was used for the provision of transitional analogue television service while the remainder was used for the programme production of the three DTT channels and other related operation cost.
The expenditure on the provision of transitional analogue television service included expenses related to the associated transmission service, acquisition of related broadcasting equipment and other related expenses. RTHK did not increase its manpower for the provision of such service.
(5) In September 2009, the Government announced the way forward for public service broadcasting in Hong Kong and decided that RTHK would be tasked to take up the mission to serve as the public service broadcaster for Hong Kong. In August 2010, the Government promulgated the Charter of Radio Television Hong Kong (the Charter), which specifies the public purposes and mission of RTHK, the key programme areas of activities undertaken by RTHK and the modes of service delivery.
To fulfill its mission as a public service broadcaster, RTHK has been implementing various initiatives, including DTT broadcasting and community involvement broadcasting service. RTHK will continue to provide professional and high-quality radio, television and new media services in accordance with the Charter.