After nearly 40 years of continuous broadcast in Hong Kong, a 24-hour transmission of the BBC World Service will go silent in the former British colony, replaced with programming from China’s state radio channel.
The move by Radio Television Hong Kong, owned by the local government, was meant to “enhance the cultural exchange between the mainland and Hong Kong”, a spokesman said. The BBC has been broadcast continuously since 1978 on the same channel in Hong Kong.
The change is highly symbolic, replacing one of the most respected news sources in the world with a media outlet replete with censorship and a mission to push the Communist party line.
The UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of colonial rule, but the territory maintains a semi-autonomous local government.
The swap comes after the Hong Kong government announced it would stop digital audio broadcasting (DAB) in early September due to a lack of demand and the fast development of the internet.
Eight hours of the BBC World Service will still be played overnight from 11pm to 7am local time, RTHK said.
“We’re always disappointed when a service our listeners are used to changes,” said Helen Deller, a senior publicist at the BBC, encouraging listers to tune in to the internet stream.
The programming replacing the BBC will come from state-broadcaster China National Radio, known as Central People’s Radio in Chinese, and will broadcast almost entirely in Mandarin, as opposed to the local language of Cantonese.
The China National Radio station will include news, finance, arts and culture, and lifestyle programmes.
Some in Hong Kong saw a more sinister side to the change, denying citizens a reliable source of information on world affairs.
“This just proves how political consideration and Chinese forces are eroding press freedom [in Hong Kong],” said pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong.
Wong said there was a certain nostalgic sadness in the 24-hour broadcast going…