LCQ4: Manpower arrangement of RTHK
The following is a question by the Hon Paul Chan Mo-po and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, in the Legislative Council today (January 5):
In September 2009, the Government announced that it would maintain Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK)'s status as a government department, giving a clear way forward for RTHK's future. Yet, it has been reported that the manpower arrangement put forward by the authorities in December 2010 when announcing RTHK's development as a public service broadcaster has aroused concerns among some of the staff of RTHK. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the reasons for the Government to first recruit staff at the Assistant Programme Officer rank when resuming recruitment of civil servants for RTHK in the first quarter of this year; whether the authorities had consulted all staff of RTHK before resuming such recruitment; if they had consulted, when the consultation took place and what specific views the staff had; if not, the reasons for that, and whether they will consider conducting such consultation before resuming the recruitment so as to address staff's concerns, making appropriate adjustment to the recruitment arrangement in the light of the majority views of staff, and announcing the overall recruitment arrangement and the timetable;
(b) before RTHK resumes recruitment of civil servants, whether the authorities have assessed the impact of such arrangement on existing non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff; whether those NCSC staff will be dismissed immediately upon completion of the recruitment of the first batch of civil servants; if so, whether the authorities have assessed the impact of such arrangement on the quality of RTHK's programmes; if the NCSC staff will not be dismissed immediately, how the authorities will arrange such staff to depart in an orderly manner without giving rise to duplication of human resources; and
(c) given that the authorities have mentioned in the paper "Public Service Broadcasting and the Future of Radio Television Hong Kong" released in 2009 that the Director of Broadcasting (D of B) would undertake an internal re-structuring review for RTHK, but the incumbent D of B will leave RTHK in February this year upon the expiry of his contract, whether the re-structuring review has been completed; if so, whether the authorities will publish the outcome of the review; if it has not yet been completed, of the reasons for that; whether the authorities have assessed the impact of the departure of the incumbent D of B on the re-structuring review; if they have assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has an important role to play in order to fulfil the mission as the public service broadcaster of Hong Kong. It has to undertake various new developments for providing quality broadcasting services for the public. In the coming few years, RTHK will embark on various new development initiatives, including the preparation for the launch of digital audio broadcasting and digital television broadcasting services, facilitating community involvement in broadcasting, reprovisioning of the new Broadcasting House, and establishing a digital media asset management system. Last December, the Government announced a package of arrangements concerning the provision of resources, manpower and facilities to fully support RTHK in taking forward its new initiatives. One of the elements is to resume the recruitment of civil servants and internal promotion by RTHK in the first quarter of this year.
RTHK currently has about 80 vacancies in the Programme Officer (PO) grade. Among them, about half are at the Assistant Programme Officer (APO) rank and the remaining vacancies are at the other promotion ranks of the grade. These vacancies are currently filled by civil servants in the PO grade under acting or doubling arrangements, while the duties in respect of some posts are taken up by contract staff. Some posts are left temporarily vacant.
My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) According to requirements of the Civil Service Regulations, open recruitment of civil service grades in general has to be conducted at the basic rank. If vacancies at promotion ranks arise, consideration has to first be given to filling them by promotion from a lower rank. In line with this requirement, RTHK will resume recruitment at the APO rank in the first quarter of this year, and in parallel, commence promotion procedures to fill vacancies at the promotion ranks of the grade. If suitable candidates cannot be identified through internal promotion exercise to fill vacancies at the promotion ranks, the department may consider conducting open recruitment at these ranks according to established policy and procedures.
Since the end of last year, the management of RTHK has started communicating with its staff in different sections and units to explain the vacancy position in the respective sections or units and the concerned recruitment arrangements and timetable. It has also maintained close contact with the RTHK Programme Staff Union to understand the staff's concerns, address their queries and allay their anxiety.
(b) The main purpose of RTHK's civil servant recruitment exercise this year is to fill existing vacancies in the PO grade. This represents a positive development in general with regard to the manpower development of RTHK, its existing civil servants and non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff. As regards the practical impact on individual staff, it is difficult to determine as it hinges on the number of NCSC staff who will apply for the civil service posts and who will be employed, staff wastage, the increase in the number of posts in RTHK, etc.
When applying for the civil service posts, NCSC staff currently employed by RTHK will have a significant competitive edge over other applicants who have not worked in the department because of their appraisal records and hands-on experience. Even though RTHK may have to reduce the number of NCSC posts after the existing civil service vacancies are filled through open recruitment, this does not mean that the NCSC staff handling the related work have to leave the department immediately. In dealing with the departure or retention of NCSC staff and the renewal of their contracts, RTHK will consider the overall situation, conduct the process in a fair and impartial manner, and ensure that staff deployment and programme quality would not be adversely affected. Moreover, in view of the many new developments in RTHK's services, we expect that the overall staffing requirement will only increase, but not decrease. RTHK will ensure that there will not be duplication of resources in working out its manpower deployment.
(c) Following the announcement of the Government on the way forward in respect of RTHK in September 2009, RTHK has reviewed its internal structure and the overall development of the PO grade in light of the department's new initiatives. The review at this stage has been completed, and RTHK has devised a plan to make adjustments to its structure for strengthening internal co-ordination and enhancing efficiency, including rationalising the division of responsibilities of its management staff. These adjustments are being implemented progressively, including the creation of a Deputy Director post at D3 level for a period of three years and a Controller (Broadcasting Services) post at D1 level. We will submit the proposal to the Establishment Subcommittee of the Legislative Council in due course. The implementation of the entire work plan will not be affected by the departure of the incumbent Director of Broadcasting. I am confident that all of RTHK staff will work as devoted as ever and will continue to provide quality public broadcasting services to the community.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011