Hong Kong gay activists condemn TV show ruling

Source: South China Morning Post
24 January 2007

Gay activists condemn TV show ruling
Officials accused of stifling public debate on homosexuality

by Albert Wong

The Broadcasting Authority’s labelling of an RTHK television programme on gay marriage as unsuitable for family viewing hours had hindered civic education in Hong Kong, gay groups and civil rights activists said yesterday.

In a joint press conference with seven groups, three interviewees from the programme accused the administration of stifling open debate on homosexuality.

The accusations came as Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping defended his meeting with Director of Broadcasting Chu Pui-hing on Monday, which had triggered concerns over RTHK’s editorial independence.

“The reason I am handling the case is to ensure that RTHK fulfils the responsibilities that it has undertaken with regard to the relevant codes of practice. There is no question of interfering with RTHK’s programming,” Mr Wong said.

Joseph Cho Man-kit, who appeared on the controversial programme, said the government’s criticism of it was a “blatant act of discrimination against different sexual orientation”. “The whole point of the programme was to bring a controversial topic out into the public so the public can have a better understanding and learn to be more tolerant.”

He said the gay community welcomed the programme, especially as those who had yet to “come out” hoped their families would be more accepting after watching it. “The government’s decision is another example of the gradual regression in open debate on these issues.”

On Saturday, the authority ruled that a Hong Kong Connection programme broadcast in July between 7.35pm and 8pm was unsuitable for family viewing hours. The programme was “unfair, partial and biased towards homosexuality, and having the effect of promoting the acceptance of homosexual marriage”, the ruling stated. “Young viewers watching the programme might have no knowledge of homosexuality and might be adversely affected by the partial contents of the programme if parental guidance was not provided,” it said.

Yesterday, the interviewees urged the authority to rescind its decision. They also submitted comments posted on gay internet message boards. A spokeswoman for RTHK said the broadcaster would take no further action, but added that it was disappointed with the ruling.

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