There was an outcry from Hong Kong’s expat community recently following public broadcaster RTHK’s decision to replace its 24-hour BBC World Service programming with state radio from China.
The decision was taken by RTHK following the axing of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio by the government earlier this year. China National is a state controlled news channel broadcast in Mandarin with some Cantonese content.
According to an RTHK spokesperson, there were no political considerations in the decision. RTHK believes the replacement of BBC World Service with China Radio will “enhance the cultural exchange between the mainland and Hong Kong.”
But critics believe the decision highlights the gradually encroaching control of China over Hong Kong in recent years. Under the “one country, two systems” formula established when Hong Kong broke ties with Britain in 1997, the territory was promised wide-ranging autonomy. The World Service had been broadcast in Hong Kong since 1978.
An online petition was quickly set up in a bid to keep round-the-clock programming from the BBC.
“I’m so mad,” said mum-of-two Mel Brown, a teacher from Sai Kung. “Being informed on my drive to and from work just got messed with. But I guess that was the point. It has made me so angry.”
“I really miss it,” commented another expat. “I know it’s available on digital apps. But that’s not really the same as switching on a wireless.”
In a press statement, the BBC confirmed that RTHK has retained BBC World Service overnight. The programme will run between 11pm and 7am on RTHK’s FM frequency Radio 4 (FM 97.6). RTHK has also agreed to consider including some BBC World Service English programmes in its daytime schedules.
BBC World Service remains available 24 hours a day online at bbcworldservice.com, via the BBC iPlayer radio app and on the RTHK Radio 4 website.