Objective Reporting and Public Service — A Study of Television News Coverage On Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Elections in 1998


To Yiu-ming, Joyce-Nip


election news; television news reporting; news objectivity; public journalism


This study aims to assess the performance of television news media in covering Hong Kong’s first Legislative Council elections in 1998 after the territory’s sovereignty was reverted to the People’s Re public of China. Election news produced by the three television stations in Hong Kong during the campaign period and on the voting day is assessed according to two journalistic norms: objectivity and public service. Face time and voice time of candidates who appeared in election news is recorded and compared as a means to quantify the differences of coverage among competing candidates and political parties. The tone of election coverage where candidates appeared and or spoke is also coded. Based on the distribution of various tones used for reporting different candidates, the neutrality of television news media is thus analyzed. On the other hand, based on a content analysis of election news reports, and media-initiated election news in particular, the extent of public service delivered by election news is assessed. This is evaluated in terms of how useful the information conveyed by election news is in helping the voter make an informed electoral choice and how accessible television news media are to the public as a channel for participation in the electoral process. Results show that the television new media produced basically objective news reports but failed in their public service role.