Popular Talk Show Hosts Axed

Two popular television hosts are fired in Hong Kong, raising fears that Chinese censors are exerting undue influence over the island.

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hknewspaper-305.jpg An elderly man reads a newspaper in a workshop in Hong Kong, June 26, 2011.

Hong Kong's government broadcaster has said it won't renew the contracts of two popular current-affairs talk show hosts in 2012, sparking fears of further pressure on media freedom in the territory since its return to Chinese rule.

Ng Chi-sum and Robert Chow hosted two popular radio phone-in shows for government broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), but the pair have now been told their contracts will not be renewed.

Wu expressed regret at the decision, which comes just months after the arrival of a new director of broadcasting, Roy Tang.

"It takes a very long time for a station to establish a talk show with a popular host, and the listeners become familiar with the personal style of that presenter, and they like it," Ng told reporters this week.

"I don't believe that I am too aggressive as a presenter, so I don't think I should have been targeted."

Ng's show, "Open Line, Open View," will continue with a new line-up of presenters and guest hosts, as well as relying heavily on the services of student reporters.

Meanwhile, Chow said the decision not to extend his contract, which didn't give him civil service status, must have been a fairly weighty one.

"It's hard for me to believe that our new director of broadcasting had no hand at all in this decision," he told local media.

"But if the staff believe that a civil servant can do a better job of presenting a show than any outsider, then I wish them good luck," he said.

Political motives?

Hong Kong has seen a number of outspoken radio personalities depart from key talk shows in the years since the handover of sovereignty to Beijing in 1997.

But RTHK management have denied any political motive behind the move.

Spokeswoman Kirindi Chan said the decision was arrived at following discussions among production staff.

"There are no political factors here, and there was no pressure from Director of Broadcasting Roy Tang," she told reporters.

Democratic legislator Emily Lau called on RTHK to hold a news conference to answer detailed questions about the decision to remove Ng and Chow.

"It's fine to change some things about RTHK, but they should give a clear explanation of how the new reforms make things better than they were before," Lau told local media.

"They should come out alongside the two presenters and give a clear account of this," she said.

"RTHK is itself a media organization, and for them to deal with things in such a way is pretty poor from a public relations point of view."

Under the terms of its handover from British rule, Hong Kong has been promised the continuation of existing freedoms of expression and association for 50 years.

But journalists fear that media organizations in the territory may nevertheless be highly susceptible to self-censorship, for fear of angering powerful corporations or high-ranking officials in mainland China.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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