Monday, December 21, 2009


I reported for duty at the Bahagian Melayu (Malay Service) of Radio Malaysia on 7 November, 1963. I was directed to the Administrative Service headed by Mr Sinnathamby, who explain the rudimentary of being in the Malaysian government service, with regards to my post of Broadcasting Grade II or simply BA2 in the Department of Radio (better known as Radio Malaysia then), later became the Department of Broadcasting when it was integrated with Television Malaysia (Radio-Television Malaysia, RTM).

He gave me the official appointment letter and conditions. There were some paper works to be completed. All were still in English. Finally I have to undergo the medical examinations at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital before my appointment could be confirmed.

In the meantime I was formally introduced to my colleagues who welcome me warmly to lessen their workloads. The Department was expanding at a fast rate since the big shift from Singapore after Malaya gain its independent and the inception of Malaysia 4 months before I joined Radio Malaysia. To top it all the country was facing the "Konfrantasi" from the Indonesian regime who were against the formation of Malaysia. A new entity in the form of "Suara Malaysia" (Voice of Malaysia, VOM) as part and parcel of the overseas service of Radio Malaysia, broadcasting in English, Indonesia and Mandarin came into being. The VOM went on the air on 15 February 1963. There were plenty to do.

The job was completely new and strange to me. There was no official training. I was told to "observe" and "double bank" certain colleagues each day. Those were new terminologies to me. It was worst than being a temporary teacher. In teaching you have the syllabus and text books as well as modules to fall back on. In broadcasting it was a clean sheet completely. You are on your own. In short, it was training on the job, more or less "trial and error" method. To me it was sort of "no error" tolerated situation when on the air. In later years staffs are sent to the training centre, Institute Penyiaran Tun Abdul Razak, IPTAR.

The nearest I came to know about broadcasting was listening to the radio of the early days assisted by the big battery in the kampungs where my father serve as Penghulu, and it was on shortwave band interspersed by static noises. Those days the anti colonial sentiment was instill in us and we even listen to Radio Republik Indonesia RRI where I heard the fine oratory of Bung Karno (President Sukarno). Later in 1959 after leaving school I was taken to the Merdeka Stadium by my classmate in Anderson School, Rahim Razali (now Dato') where he was giving a football commentary. He was a Temporary BA3 prior to his departure to Australia for further studies.

The broadcasting hours was short then, it was at 6 to 9 in the morning, 12 to 3 in the afternoon and 6 to 12 at night. Later the segments were banded together and the broadcasting hours remained from 6 a.m. to midnight for a long time after which it was decided to have the 24 hours broadcast when the operations shifted from Federal House to Wisma Radio in the broadcasting complex Angkasapuri in 1972.

In the early days of RTM, both Radio and Television were separate entities in term of administrations. Later it was truly integrated where staff was interchangeable in their duties in line with the government service policy of banding posts in all its departments into 4 categories of grade, A, B, C and D and later the numerical nomenclature. That was how a radio man like me landed in television to the displeasure of my colleagues in television. The intake of staffs was no longer based on talents and skill. Emphasis was on qualifications.

The broadcasters that the public knew were the voices heard over radio and the faces they see on television. They hardly knew the staff behind the scene. who were in greater numbers. When the new intake policy in the civil service was implemented it was also the time when public broadcasting was expanding in line with the economic development of the country. Naturally there was a drop in quality of voices heard over the airwaves for sometime. The advent of media studies in the universities and the commercial broadcasting entities change all that for the better. Competitions breed competency and efficiency.

With the advent of private stations the concept of broadcasting in the country changed completely especially over radio. No longer the broadcasters are guided by the scripts prepared. Technological advancement play a big role in that change. The inter-stations programme which was a big hit in the old days has been taken over by the phone-in where the so called "DJ" talk directly to the listeners. The mobile phones keep the public up to date with events around them. Of course there are pitfalls but the advantages override the detractors' acts.

My personal view of the mushrooming of the radio stations is that I do not see (hear) any different between the style and way of presentations of all the stations. All sound the same to me. The advent of narrow casting over the Frequency Modulator (FM) band made me listen less to radio, be what they claim being in their niche field. My field of listening is limited to the two languages I understand, Melayu and English. I cannot judge the other two languages and local dialects on the air in Malaysia.

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