The Communications Authority (CA) on Tuesday issued Radio Television Hong Kong with its second warning in as many months, this time over a satirical programme it said had "denigrated" and "insulted" the police force, and which was not "factually accurate".
The authority said more than 3,300 people had made complaints about an episode of Headliner which aired on February 14.
The show poked fun at the police, including with the presenter jumping out of a rubbish bin while dressed in a police uniform, and by joking that while medical staff were complaining of a shortage of protective equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak, police officers had plenty of gear.
The CA conceded that being a political satire show, Headliner would make fun of political or public figures in a tone or manner which was impudent, satirical or even critical.
But it added that RTHK had previously accepted that Headliner was a "personal view programme" and this means it has to respect the facts and present a broad range of views.
It said the public broadcaster had failed to demonstrate that it had made efforts to ensure that the joke about police officers having a lot of face masks at their disposal was factually accurate.
It also slammed the way the presenter had parodied the police, saying it was a "gratuitous attack" on all officers.
"The segment’s mean characterisation of the police was deliberate with the intention, obvious to general viewers, to insult and to convey the prejudice hinting that police officers were a group of people who were seen as trash, were revulsive and spurned," the authority said in its report.
"Such characterisation also suggested that only worthless people would join the police, possibly ridiculing those serving in or aspiring to join the police."
On the issue of providing a broad range of views, the CA noted that RTHK had included comments expressed by the Police Commissioner, Chief Executive, some police officers and various lawmakers in subsequent episodes of the show.
But the authority said it would be questionable whether the requirement for different views would be fulfilled if the various opinions were included "for the reason of poking fun at the people making such viewpoints".
In any case, it said RTHK had failed to meet the requirement, because the original skit was regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, and the subsequent views were related to the city's protest movement.
The CA said the complaints "in respect of accuracy of factual contents in the programme, denigration and insult on the police, and expression of a sufficiently broad range of views" were justified, and it had decided that RTHK should be warned to observe the Television Programme Code more closely.
In March, Police Commissioner Chris Tang had said he was reporting RTHK to the CA over the television show, also insisting that even satire must be factually accurate.
Last month, the CA issued RTHK with a "serious warning" over a November 2019 episode of the opinion show Pentaprism, where a guest presenter had talked about clashes between police and protesters at the Polytechnic and Chinese universities.
RTHK warned over 'gratuitous attack' on police
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