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The decline and fall of RTHK


Broadcasting House of RTHK, where the director now works every day.

By Francis Moriarty, veteran journalists who spent 19 years in RTHK

Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), my former employer for 19 years, is now being brought to heel by the Hong Kong Government at China's behest. For decades the station's output on TV and radio has been high-quality broadcasting that enjoyed widespread public support and credibility. Now, at China's behest, the station is becoming a propaganda organ.

This is exactly what pro-government forces have been calling for over many years. Now they are getting just that. It has taken a patient, step-by-stem scheme, employing a variety of techniques and the selective targeting of individuals going back decades both before and after the 1997 handover, but now the broadcasting takeover is here.

Ever since RTHK was ruled out as ever becoming a true public broadcaster (Hong Kong readers can refer to the last page of the Ray Wong report) the future of the station has been a stitch-up happening in stages. Now the future has arrived.

What's the next step? Hard to say, but perhaps we might expect an internal reorganization under which the station's English-language services would no longer be placed on the same flow-chart level as Chinese-language services; a new RTHK board would be filled with carefully vetted appointees (not unlike the current one), and the Director of Broadcasting would report directly to the Information Services Department. In short, RTHK would formally become an official government mouthpiece.

Expect the programming to become about as interesting as the new "show," starring the HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam, that has just been forced upon the station and must be aired four times a day. In it, she speaks with a pro-China businessman about Beijing's newly tightened control over the Beijing-picked body that will choose the territory's next chief executive. This will, of course, benefit the territory and teach people the true meaning of democracy.
For me, this crackdown is very hard to watch. I cannot imagine how some of my former colleagues must feel. My heart goes out to them.

(This is first published on author's Facebook on May 1)


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