Budget reduction will not impact financial support to the media – Information Bureau Director

The announced budget reduction for 2021 will not impact financial support granted to local media, Government Information Bureau (GCS) Director, Ines Chan Lou, indicated today (Thursday).

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has indicated last month that next year’s public administration budget could see a 10 per cent reduction, although the CE vowed that the cut will not impact social welfare expenses.

Local newspapers published in the city’s official languages, Chinese and Portuguese, with at least weekly publication and that have been published for at least five years are entitled to subsidies from the government.

Authorities also provide support through institutional advertisement published in local newspapers.

Speaking after today’s 2020 Plenary Meeting of the Economic Development Council, Chan indicated that the budget reduction would mainly focus on operational expenses and not on sector support policies.

However, when questioned if there were plans to revise the current press law – enforced in 1990 – the new GCS Director only indicated her department and the current administration would still study this possibility.

Between 2011 and 2013, the government held a public consultation to discuss a possible revision to the Press Law with one of the issues in discussion being if online publications should be included in the scope of the law.

However, no bill was proposed afterwards by the authorities, with the former GCS Director, Victor Chan, stating last year that the consensus between government, press associations and the media sector was to leave the issue to be discussed at future stages.

Chan was also questioned over a reduced amount of government press conferences and events organised in recent times, with the GCS Director pointing to health measures connected to the pandemic to justify the reduction and promising and increase after the situation improves.

Having been in the role for a week, Chan has held several visits to local media publications and outlets to consult the sector’s opinions and concerns, with Chan citing the adoption of new technologies and the lack of human resources as some of the most common concerns raised.

“The media has a very important role and we have to see how to assist its healthy development,” Chan noted.