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Call to find new revenue sources for SAR museums
Andrea Chiu
Hong Kong Standard
Thursday, April 27, 2006

To stop the continued hemorrhaging of public funds, Director of Audit Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun has suggested the Leisure and Culture Services Department consider measures such as setting up a statutory governing body and commercial sponsorship to increase efficiency and income for public museums.

On average 94.4 percent of the department's museums expenditure was financed by the government from 2001 to 2005. But the museums' revenue generated 6 percent of the expenditure, the audit report said.

For 2004-05, the department's museums had recurrent expenditure of HK$368.8 million and revenue of HK$30.9 million - an operating loss of HK$337.9 million.

The audit recommended the government introduce museum legislation.

"For Hong Kong to become a cultural metropolis, the audit considers that the [Home Affairs Bureau] and the LCSD need to address the issue of the regulatory framework for the governance of museums in Hong Kong in order to facilitate their future development," the report said.

But a LCSD spokeswoman said museums legislation may be required only if these museums are to be corporatized. She added that the Committee on Museums is currently studying the modes of governance of museums and museum legislation with the intention of submitting a report to the administration by the end of the year.

In response to the audit's recommendation on creating a statutory governing body, the LCSD also deferred to the committee's future report.

However, the spokeswoman emphasized the uniqueness of every museum.

"Considering the different nature of museum services, overseas museums have different cultural, social and political contexts for the development of their museum legislation mode of governance. A statutory governing body is not the only choice," the spokeswoman said.

The report also recommended generating additional income for museums through sponsorship and donations.

The audit noted that the LCSD had already secured commercial sponsorship such as HSBC's sponsoring of an Impressionism exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art last year.

But in response to the audit's recommendation on more commercial sponsorship of public museums, LCSD director Anissa Wong Sean-yee said "careful consideration should be given to ascertaining whether such activities would lead to public perception on the conflict of interest."

A department spokeswoman added that public museums are on favorable terms with consulates in Hong Kong which have engaged in major exhibits and cultural exchanges.

The audit also recommended the department encourage more public cash donations for the development of public museums.

The department said it has already implemented incentive schemes to encourage the public to donate money such as naming rights and private functions for donors.

"There are few museums on earth that get 100 percent of cost in revenue," said former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, a People's Panel On West Kowloon core member. Ho said that museums in the French capital Paris get about 30 percent back in revenue. The government covers 30 to 40 percent of the operation and the rest of the balance from business sponsorship.

According to Ho, the answer is to encourage student participation through promotional initiatives.

Last year, the department spent more than HK$15.7 million on public education and awareness programs to promote its museum services.

But Ho said a more hands-on approach such as developing outreach programs in schools is needed to create more awareness of the museums' services.

The audit also recommended the department formulate an overall strategy for its museum services, ensure every museum has a collection policy and reduce energy consumption.
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