What exactly does the Hong Kong government want RTHK to be?

December 2, 2018
Industry News
Content Provided By:


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Tammy Tam
tammy.tam@scmp.com
  • A recent report laid bare problems with many reruns and little original content
  • But the station’s role and operations are uniquely fraught
When it comes to measuring television ratings properly in this internet age, does it make sense to apply the same methodology employed by the government in its value-for-money audits?

It has been used for decades to check on all spending of taxpayers’ money, and has been well received by the public. So, in theory at least, it should be no exception for any government body.

But for a public broadcaster like RTHK, the fundamental differences between a government agency and a commercial entity could lead to controversial readings.

The city’s audit commissioner last week presented the public with quite a terrible picture of RTHK: its two TV channels have been rerunning about 40 per cent of their programmes, less than 20 per cent of which are original content. Worse, the average rating for the first half of this year was only 0.1 per cent, at about 6,400 viewers, on top of some other problems.

Sounds shocking? No boss of any private station would tolerate this, but here’s where the problem arises: RTHK has a full set of social obligations to meet; being free from any commercial pressure, it must produce a fair amount of programmes catering to the needs of various social sectors, which private stations would rather not bother with.

Also, private broadcasters measure prime-time or off-peak hour ratings for specific shows instead of an overall average – unlike the government auditor – to give advertisers a better sense of which time slots to choose.

And, to be fair, RTHK’s two TV channels currently provide only 19 hours of programming instead of all-day services, for various reasons, including resource constraints. Unfortunately, the value-for-money audit employs a 24-hour operation model.

Keep in mind, also, that the global trend is declining TV viewership in the face of changing habits due to the proliferation of alternatives on mobile platforms. Continue Reading

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