Focus on PSM | Hong Kong

Tuesday 5 September 2017

RTHK Headquarters. Image courtesy of RTHK.

Hong Kong’s media landscape has been in the limelight throughout the summer due to controversial decisions, censorship complaints and hints of tighter control by the mainland.

The public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has experienced numerous changes in recent months. Below, we have put together a list of the most recent developments and changes to the city state’s public and general media sector.


Deteriorating press freedom, tighter Chinese grip → Journalists in Hong Kong have long lamented declining press freedom, and frequently denounce the influence the mainland wields. Recent pressures mainly come from the ownership structure of traditional media outlets, as well as attacks on journalists and self-censorship practices. A report released in July by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), estimated that 9 out of 26 mainstream media outlets in Hong Kong are either under Chinese control or have mainland ownership, and that the number of independent media outlets is falling. At present, Hong Kong ranks 73rd in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.

Government control →  In July, during the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer from Britain to China, the government exerted even tighter control on media outlets and professionals, especially as the city was planning to receive the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Journalists were requested to register and provide extensive personal information and share it with the Handover Coordination Office.

Censorship complaints →  Shortly after that, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, RTHK, denounced censorship after one of its satirical programme was pulled at the last minute and replaced with the Chinese President’s speech during the anniversary visit. The satirical programme, Headliner, which was to broadcast on the free-to-air television, Television Broadcast Limited (TVB), had often been critical of the government. RTHK has subsequently filed an official complaint to the country’s Communications Authority (CA).

Farewell to digital radio broadcasting →  In March the government decided to shut down Hong Kong’s digital radio services and only maintain analogue radio services. Digital radio services were introduced to respond to market demands and keep up with broadcast technology trends across the globe, but were axed this year due to operational difficulties and lack of widespread audience and coverage.

End of the BBC World Service relay→  At the end of August, RTHK announced that it would cancel its 24-hour BBC World Service relay, and replace it with the mainland’s China National Radio (CNR). The decision came after a review that was conducted in March, when the government decided to pull the plug on digital audio broadcasting. As a result, RTHK released a new programming schedule, which allows the BBC World Service to be relayed from 11pm to 7am.

The local freedom of expression NGO, PEN Hong Kong, tried to prevent the public broadcaster from shortening the international relay. The group, together with other activists, were particularly concerned about its substitution with China’s state-media programmes.

“This is not the type of news that the only public broadcaster in Hong Kong should be transmitting to its listeners,” the NGO said.

In spite of the criticism, the new schedule became effective on 4 September.


In other news

A crowdfunded, scoop-focused news agency → Factwire is a news agency founded by public donations that focuses on investigative journalism in Hong Kong. Some of their reporting includes safety concerns at a nuclear power plant in the province of Guangdong and issues with Chinese manufactured subway trains. Following a publicly funded BBC model this organisation aims to build trust and credibility as a news source.

No entry to Macau → At the end of August, four Hong Kong journalists who sought to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Hato in Macau were denied entry, and some were detained for several hours. According to the local authorities, this was due to the journalists posing “a threat to the stability of the territory’s international security”.

Highest mobile news consumption →  The new Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017 found that Hong Kong is the first mobile market when it comes to news consumption.  Mobile alerts and notifications are also one of the most popular method of obtaining news, and also scored hight on trust and credibility of the news consumed, with RTHK and TVB also ranked as one of the most popular news sources in the city.


The links above are to original stories, some of which are not produced by PMA. ‘Focus on PSM’ pulls together stories from regions experiencing periods of heightened debate about the role of public media. PMA does not necessarily endorse these stories nor do they necessarily reflect the view of PMA.