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Outcry After Hong Kong Broadcaster Axes BBC World Service in Favor of Chinese State Media

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Full view of Kowloon and Hong Kong

Full view of Kowloon and Hong Kong. Photo: Lichunngai.

News that Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK will cease rebroadcasting the BBC World Service on AM radio has prompted calls for its reinstatement, after the station said it would be replaced by programming in Mandarin from China’s state broadcaster.

BBC World Service programming, which has been rebroadcast in the former British colony since 1978, will be replaced with China National Radio Hong Kong Edition from Sept. 4, ending nearly four decades of continuous broadcasting in the city, the station said.

The decision was taken to “enhance the cultural exchange between mainland China and Hong Kong,” RTHK spokeswoman Amen Ng said.

BBC World Service programming will still be available after the nightly shutdown of RTHK Radio 4, however.

The move comes as media watchdogs cite growing influence wielded by the ruling Chinese Communist Party over the formerly freewheeling city’s political life and media, saying Chinese money is largely behind self-censorship on the part of Hong Kong news organizations.

Ng told RFA the move wasn’t politically motivated, however.

“I don’t accept that this was a political arrangement,” she said. “Otherwise, why would we have worked so hard to keep international broadcasters like the BBC? This entire decision has been RTHK’s.”

“We only have so many channels, and now that we no longer have digital channels, RTHK has been left with just three FM and four AM channels, seven in total,” Ng told RFA. “We had to think of a way to include all important services in the mix, and … China National Radio’s Hong Kong Edition is tailored to our audience.”

She dismissed claims of self-censorship at the flagship station.

“A lot of people have been asking me if we still have editorial independence at RTHK, and of course I tell them that we do,” Ng said.

Full story:

Reported by Lam Kwok-lap for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2017, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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