Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the city’s only public broadcaster, should improve its programming to boost its falling ratings and shrinking audience reach, the Audit Commission said.
In its report released on Wednesday, the commission pointed out that RTHK spent HK$1.084 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year but its income was only HK$20.7 million during the period, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The commission cited multiple defects, including too many re-runs, not enough new programs, excessive miscellaneous content, a sharp decrease in its radio audience, and declining daily page views for the RTHK website, among others.
The audit report noted that first-run programs only made up about 1,409 hours, or 16.1 percent of the total broadcasting hours of channel TV 31, RTHK’s flagship TV channel, for 2017-18, while re-run shows increased more than double over the past three years.
The audit report said the large number of broadcast hours devoted to miscellaneous content was a cause for concern as it may reduce RTHK’s ability to attract and retain its audience.
According to the watchdog, the average rating of TV 31/31A was only 0.1 point, or about 6,400 viewers, for January to June this year.
As for the radio channels, the combined number of listeners for its seven channels was about 3.37 million last year, up 14 percent from 2013, while the number of those listening to Radio 6 and 7 dropped 57 and 33 percent respectively.
The commission urged RTHK to explore ways to enrich its TV programs, including increasing output hours, boosting hours for first-run programs, devising a strategy for re-runs, addressing the lower ratings of TV programs compared with those received by similar programs on a commercial channel, taking measures to boost the usage of the RTHK website, and improving the quality of new media platforms among other recommendations.
The director of broadcasting and the secretary for education expressed agreement with the audit recommendations.
In response to the audit report, Amen Ng Man-yee, head of RTHK’s corporate communications and standards unit, criticized the commission’s method of calculating TV ratings, saying it failed to reflect the actual numbers and was different from what is generally used by the TV industry.
Ng said rating is only one of the reference indicators. What is more important is that RTHK, being a public broadcaster, can provide services that its commercial counterparts cannot.
Gladys Chiu Sin-yan, who chairs RTHK Programme Staff Union, said the broadcaster bears a certain degree of social responsibility, and as such, its performance cannot be measured by ratings alone.
Chiu urged the government to allocate more financial resources to RTHK, noting that TV 31 will begin its 24-hour service from April next year.
RTHK, established in 1928, is under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. It currently operates three TV channels and seven radio channels with 676 civil service staff, 193 full-time and 417 part-time contract staff.
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