12 December 2018
A HK$5.3 billion funding request for a new headquarters for RTHK is pending in Legco, a victim of partisan gridlock. Photo: RTHK
A HK$5.3 billion funding request for a new headquarters for RTHK is pending in Legco, a victim of partisan gridlock. Photo: RTHK

Hopes of building new RTHK headquarters lie in Carrie Lam

The poor relations between former Chief Executive CY Leung and the pan-democrats as well as the intense partisan gridlock in Legco led to a complete stalemate in our legislature over the past several years. As a result, bills and funding requests tabled by the government were often stalled or blocked in Legco.

Among them was the HK$5.3 billion funding request for a new headquarters for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) put forward by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which, like many other government bills, was struck down by Legco in 2014.

Since then the plan has been shelved, until recently, when RTHK has been making a massive effort to resurrect the proposal.

It is said that over the past year, RTHK has been working aggressively to seek partnership with other government departments in building a joint headquarters so as to enhance the cost-effectiveness of the entire proposal, thereby boosting its chance of getting the green light from Legco.

Earlier, there was talk that the Government Laboratory had agreed to team up with RTHK and share the proposed new headquarters in the future. However, according to government sources, the latest development is that the Government Laboratory has already called off the deal, which means RTHK has to find another partner.

Yet, while RTHK has been eagerly working on the project, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau, apparently doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the plan.

When asked earlier by the media whether he would re-table the bill to the legislature, Yau’s answer was “it depends on Legco’s stance”, which means, as some in RTHK has interpreted, the project is a low priority from the bureau’s point of view.

Sources from RTHK said the longer the project is postponed, the more expensive it is going to get, as construction costs have continued to soar in recent years.

They explained that even though RTHK is planning to put the contract for building its new headquarters out to two separate tenders this time instead of one, so that they won’t have to ask Legco for an enormous amount of money in one go in order to boost the chance of getting approved, the total cost will almost definitely exceed HK$5.3 billion.

However, given the lukewarm response from Secretary Yau, they conceded that there is indeed nothing much they can do to expedite the project.

Perhaps their last hope lies in the upcoming Policy Address in October, as Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed to divert more resources into the public broadcasting service during her CE election campaign. But for now, all the RTHK staff can do is wait.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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