Integrated Summary of FindingsBack

This integrated summary serves as an executive summary of two separate surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Programme (POP) of the University of Hong Kong, commissioned by the Audit Commission (AC) of the HKSAR Government, in relation to a Value For Money (VFM) study of the Hong Kong Harbour Fest, namely:
  • An on-line audience survey conducted from 6 to 11 November 2003, hereinafter referred to as the "audience survey"; and
  • A representative random telephone survey of Hong Kong residents conducted from 27 November to 10 December 2003, hereinafter referred to as the "general survey".
Although both surveys were commissioned by AC, POP takes full responsibility for designing the surveys, conducting the fieldwork, processing the data, and interpreting the findings. Although the questionnaires were designed by POP in consultation with AC, POP's autonomy was fully guaranteed as agreed, hence the ultimate responsibility of the whole research process lies entirely in POP. In fact, AC has not changed a single word of this report compiled by POP.
While the methodology of the two surveys has been explained in detail in their respective sections, it should be emphasized right at the beginning that findings from the audience survey were not meant to be representative of the entire Harbour Fest audience, because the survey, by design, only covered audiences of the last three Harbour Fest concerts held on 6, 7 and 9 November 2003. Moreover, the response rate of 6%, although not too low for this type of on-line surveys, means that systematic bias (say, in favour of more vocal concert-goers) is likely to have occurred. The main purpose of conducting the audience survey, in spite of these drawbacks, was to collect opinion from a sample of actual concert-goers, near the end of the Harbour Fest, for some rough qualitative analyses before designing a full-fledged representative general opinion survey.
To be fair to AC and POP, the idea of conducting a VFM study of the Harbour Fest did not occur until the fest had well begun. It was then not possible to conduct a representative survey of all concert-goers anyway. AC and POP did their second best by designing a qualitative study of audience feedback before the fest was over, and used its findings to prepare for the general survey. As it turned out, feedbacks collected from the audience survey, especially those open-ended responses, were very useful and inspiring.
From the open comments and suggestions made by the concert-goers, it seems that some people appreciated the idea of organizing such concerts, considered Tamar a good venue, and blamed the media for negative campaigns. Many people, however, criticized the organizers for their lack of experience, poor promotions, inappropriate ticket pricing, and did not welcome the mix of local and international artists. It is interesting to note that those answering the on-line audience survey in English tended to give more favourable opinion of the fest, while those answering in Chinese tended to be much more critical. This "language-divide" might be indicative of an "ethnic-divide" among concert-goers in particular, and the overall population in general. However, because this qualitative observation could not be tested in the general survey, due to the small sub-sample size of concert-goers and English speakers in the general survey, it remains an observation to be verified, if necessary.
Another interesting observation of the audience survey, when contrasted with findings from the general survey, is that concert-goers on the whole seem to have appraised Harbour Fest more favourably than non-goers, as reflected in the general survey. This is readily understandable because the act of going to the concerts is itself an endorsement of the fest, especially when one has to pay for the ticket. Moreover, because the last three concerts of Harbour Fest were generally considered to be the most successful ones, be it due to the quality of the performers or the upward learning curve of the organizers, and one would naturally expect respondents of the audience survey to be more positive about the concerts than all concert-goers on the whole. This is evidenced in our "appreciation scores" for concert-goers across the two surveys. For the on-line audience survey, the average score (for the last three concerts) was 86.1 +/- 1.4, which was significantly higher than that for the general survey, which was 61.9 +/- 5.0, at 95% confidence level. This re-confirms our previous observation that findings from the audience survey cannot be taken as representative of all Harbour Fest concert-goers.
Our general survey, on the contrary, through our state-of-the-art research design and quality control mechanism, is meant to be highly representative of opinion carried by the general public of age 15 or above. We have adopted a large sample size of 2,026 in order to minimize the sampling error to less than +/- 2.2% at 95% confidence level. The effective response rate of the general survey was 57.0%, which is at the upper end of our normal range. The Director of POP genuinely believes that the findings of the general survey are representative of the public view on the Harbour Fest. It should become an important input to AC's overall VFM study of the fest.
The general survey was conducted between 27 November and 10 December 2003. In other words, fieldwork was completed roughly about a month after the fest ended. Memory should still be fresh, but it is difficult to say how much of the opinion collected was influenced by media coverage of the event, or by remarks made by opinion leaders during that period. Nevertheless, these are the uncertainties we have to live with, as opinions create realities of their own.
According to our representative general survey, 60% of the respondents considered Harbour Fest an unsuccessful event in general. In specific terms, 56% said it has failed to revive the economy, 43% said it failed to attract tourists, 42% believed it had tarnished Hong Kong's international image, while 36% said it had failed to convey the message that Hong Kong was no longer under the threat of SARS. Of the four specific attributes measured, all four gave negative results. No wonder only 8% of the respondents considered Harbour Fest a success.
Employing the concept of "value for money", respondents were then asked to give a dollar-value appraisal for the government expenditure on three leisure and cultural activities, namely, the Harbour Fest, the visit of Real Madrid Football Club, and the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival. Finding shows that 79% considered the money spent on the visit of the Real Madrid Football Club was good value for money, and 65% said money was well spent on the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival. However, only 15% said the money spent on Harbour Fest was good value for money, 79% said it was not. Irrespective of any objective VFM audit of the events, Harbour Fest was definitely not perceived by the public as good value for money.
This, however, does not mean that the general public was all against government spending on organizing events like the Harbour Fest, as 32% of the respondents said government should spend more than $15 per capita on such events, as against 44% who said it should not be more than $15. The figure of $15 per capita, or $100m in total, was in fact the amount of government contribution to the Harbour Fest. This opens the question of why a significant number of respondents was prepared to endorse government spending on similar events in order to boost Hong Kong's image after the SARS epidemic, but only 15% considered Harbour Fest to be good value for money. The answer probably lies in their appraisal of how Harbour Fest was organized.
In spite of some positive feedbacks on the choice of venue, and the idea of the "crossover" of local and international artists, 70% of the respondents said promotion was insufficient, 55% considered ticket price too high, and 51% opposed the government's decision to give away free tickets of the October 24 concert, because the British group Atomic Kitten was unable to perform. On the question of why attendance of the fest was below satisfaction, the most frequent answers given by the respondents were: insufficient promotion, poor organization, unattractive performers, and tickets too expensive. It thus seems that the main problem lies not in the idea of Harbour Fest, but its organization and technical operation. Probably because of this bad experience, 57% of the respondents did not like the idea of organizing annual music festivals like the Harbour Fest. For the few percents who had attended the concerts, however, their opinion was expectedly more favourable.
The main areas of investigation of the general survey were:
  • Perception of the general public on the efficacy of Harbour Fest;
  • A dollar-value appraisal of Harbour Fest;
  • Appraisal of the general public on the operation of Harbour Fest;
  • People's reasons of going or not going to Harbour Fest concerts; and
  • Audience's evaluation of the Harbour Fest concerts.
At the end, it seems that a negative image has been painted, as far as public opinion is concerned. Concert-goers were more on the positive side, especially those who took part in our on-line audience survey. This should not, however, be taken as conclusive evidence that Hong Kong Harbour Fest has failed the VFM test.
Public opinion may be swayed by opinion leaders and the media, it may or may not be based on rational and educated judgment. Moreover, when public spending reaches astronomical figures, the public may not be able to understand their real meanings. It would be AC's responsibility to conduct an independent, professional, and objective VFM appraisal of the event, in view of its economic, social and political implications, and then persuade the public to accept it. Even though the public might be uneducated, one must never underestimate the importance of their subjective judgment, and any objective VFM appraisal must also take public opinion into consideration. Afterall, public money comes from the public, and if people do not think their money is well spent, who else other than those holding people's mandate has the right to say otherwise?