RTHK to suspend news satire show ‘Headliner’ after criticism that episode was ‘insulting’ to police

A police officer emerges from a rubbish bin on a Feb. 14 episode of ‘Headliner.’ Photo: RTHK/YouTube
A police officer emerges from a rubbish bin on a Feb. 14 episode of ‘Headliner.’ Photo: RTHK/YouTube

Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK said Tuesday that it will soon halt its satirical program following a statement from a government bureau that it aired “denigrating and insulting” comments about the police.

Headliner will be suspended after its current season ends on June 19, according to local sources. RTHK also issued an apology and said it would comprehensively review the program. “We will speak with people at different positions and… see how we develop from there,” RTHK head of corporate communications Amen Ng said.

The complaint from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) was in response to an episode aired in February. In the 22-minute program, a police officer steps out of a trash bin wearing a name plate mocking the police force‘s motto about loyalty and courage. In a later scene, he wears a white protective suit, a face mask and goggles, suggesting that police were hoarding protective equipment from medical staff fighting COVID-19 who were struggling with a lack of their own.

In a statement published Tuesday evening, the bureau said that RTHK failed to “ensure the accuracy of the factual contents in the program” and made “remarks and content regarded as hate speech.” It added that the broadcaster did not include “a sufficiently broad range of views.”

The Communications Authority said the episode received more than 3,300 complaints from viewers.

Headliner, which has been on air since 1989, is known for its satirical sketches on current affairs in Hong Kong. It often takes a critical stance on the city’s government, and since last summer has been chided for what some call a biased view of the protests that began last June. Some groups have staged demonstrations outside the RTHK headquarters.

Pro-establishment lawmakers say RTHK programs appear to sympathize with protestors without showing how the protests, which roiled Hong Kong for seven months, had affected daily lives and brought economic difficulty to many.

In response, those supportive of the protests have rallied behind RTHK, calling it “real” Hong Kong media and leaving encouraging comments on YouTube on episodes of Headliner and Hong Kong Connection, another popular program produced by the broadcaster.

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