Friday, February 26, 2010

Easily Said...

I heard that before...

Last few days Minister of Information, Communication and Culture (MICC) Dato’ Sri Utama Rais Yatim came out with a few statements on the various departments under his Ministry. The one that received vocal response concerned the private commercial radio stations that are mushrooming lately.

Rais announced that they will have to air new songs by local artistes effective March 1 and it’s going to be a precondition in the issuance of radio licence. As expected his reasoning was aimed at spurring the local music industry. A noble moves to propped the lagging industry in its own backyard.

It is obvious that with the exception of the ever popular “Klasik Nasional FM” the radio side of the national broadcaster RTM, the other stations have not taken a second look at the local new albums or singles, a worrying trend among the patriots. This is the result of poor enforcement on prerequisite of the issuance of licence by the then Ministry of Communication. Obviously Rais is trying to mend the fence since the coming of the Communication Department into his new portfolio. Of course the local artistes through their various associations welcome the announcement with open arms. They feel that they have been suppressed by the presence of foreign works on the local airwaves.

The directive was made under Section 33 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988. The Minister claims there were little efforts shown by radio stations to promote local songs. Section 33, among others, stipulates that the minister, at any time, has the power to modify or vary the special conditions of an existing licence.

Rais believes the commercial radio stations have no problem in adhering to the compulsory announcement. The commercial radio broadcasters and their followers beg to differ as they consider it a “drastic” measure but the minister contends that it was done because of the trend in the industry which did not favour the local music scene. Rais was quoted as saying “there are radio stations which couldn’t care less about the local music. They tend to amuse themselves with foreign songs and not giving due attention to the ‘love Malaysia music’ programme”. He said the move was to rejuvenate the country’s “ailing” music industry which saw the value diminishing from RM200 million a year in 2001 to RM 70 million a year at the moment.

Apart from that his ministry would also strive to address other issues encumbering the industry such as piracy and illegal downloading of songs via the Internet. The ministry also planned to set up a music department in its effort to strengthen the country’s music industry.

The commercial radio stations under its grouping “Commercial Radio Malaysia” (CRM) wants to meet the minister on the issue. Of course CRM wants to clarify their side of the story and to discuss the possible impact on the industry. CRM claimed that the local music industry had grown immensely with their help. In a statement CRM insist that supporting Malaysian artistes would continue to be a necessary segment in the business of local radio stations. “With the decline of global and local sales of music CDs, the radio has been an important tool for Malaysian artistes, including sales of legitimate digital downloads and ring back tones” claimed CRM.

That statement sound familiar. It must have been prepared sometime back and waiting for the correct time to be issued. I don’t find anything new in CRM’s statement. I believe there is truth in Rais reasoning. I have stopped listening to most of the commercial stations a long time back as I am not a strong connoisseur of foreign music that they have been blasting whenever I tune in. Of course they do play local works but that’s at an unearthly hour where their so called “rating” are not affected. I don’t subscribe to the truth of ratings anyway as they are being manipulated to please certain sectors of the industry or advertisers. The rating game is a mockery as long the commercial stations keep competing for the attention of listeners and advertisers. All the time it berated that most commercial stations are forever beating the national broadcaster radio stations at the rating game which don’t make sense to me as most people I meet claimed that they tune to “Klasik Nasional FM”.

The ministry is listening to the many grouses and said that CRM has not done enough to create a healthy local music industry. The open sky policy through the New Media has led to the trend of appreciating foreign works at the expense of comparatively weak local product. One just wonders how the ruling was going to be implemented as the CRM has already claimed in their statement that they have already played their role in supporting the local music industry. In short they are telling the minister they don’t have to be told what to do. The best solution is for both sides to meet and resolved the issue.

Sometime one just wonders whether one is really in Malaysia whenever one tunes to the radio here. The music is definitely foreign with announcement in various languages, mainly English. The English of the so called DJs (announcers) are atrocious coupled with all sorts of grammatical mistakes and Americanised way of delivery which never was. DJs are much more gullible on the American or British singers than the westerners themselves. They definitely don’t have the slightest idea of the local scene with the exception of a few. Their references are the album cover and the gossip columns which are speculative and sensation in nature. This is a worrying trend.

They resort to using the Malay language when they are in sticky situation or when they get stuck with their flow of thought. Likewise the Malay language DJs. This issue has been raised by previous information ministers and patriotic Bahasa Melayu circles. It concern the so called “Bahasa Rojak”, the wrong usage of the Malay language. This worrying trend has the lovers of the Malay language up in arms but nothing seems to have been resolved.
The Education Ministry has a set rule on the teaching of the Malay language. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka DBP gloated on their role of being the expert of the language. Now where do the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture (MICC) fit in.

Rais is trying to arrest the sliding trend of the local music industry by inclining to the formation of a Department of Music under his ministry’s wing. Fine. Beside that he should also be thinking about having a “Bahasa Melayu Department” to stop the rot and decay of the language over the local airwaves. Let’s not quarrel with DBP or the Education Ministry over each other’s role. The Education Ministry can continue their role in teaching the language proper. DBP should just concentrate on the written aspect of the language, whereas the MICC should look into the proper way the language should be pronounce and use which is within their jurisdiction.

At one time years ago, RTM did try to have a small “pronunciations section” in its radio newsroom under the charge of former teacher George Abraham who also double up as the English newsreader over Radio and TV. George did a good job of contacting language experts and foreign embassies in getting the correct pronunciations of names of person and places of that particular country. RTM was top on that. With George departure through retirement I am not sure if the “section” is still operating but whenever I tune to the national broadcaster’s Radio and TV I doubt of its existence.

It is high time for the Ministry to arrest the sliding trend in this area over the air encompassing all the country’s broadcasters. It is not too late to have a point of reference for them. A regular issuance of glossary of pronunciations of certain and peculiar words is in order to improve the quality of broadcasting.

The other aspect that needs attention is the adherence to the set rules. Of course this can be done through regular monitoring. I think even the Ministry has forgotten that it has a Monitoring Division which used to be based in some isolated place in Klang. Its original role was to monitor foreign broadcasts that gave adverse report on Malaysia during the days of “Konfrantsi” and subsequently when that period of the country’s problem came to an end it was to monitor aggressive news report adverse to the country’s interest from certain foreign radio stations. Later part of the outfit was placed in Angkasapuri proper to monitor the private TV station that emerged especially in its commercial and advertising presentations. I believe that has ceased due to the lack of space in the building.

It is high time the Monitoring Division be diverse to include the monitoring of all Radio and TV stations’ broadcast paying attention to the sliding trend in pronunciations over the air and in particular the Malay Language. I have yet to see the implementation in my life time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"A Rolling Stone..."

Yesterday an old friend and one time contemporary in RTM A. Aziz Ibrahim invited me to his house for tea. Another old friend Haji Yusof Awang was already there and taken for a tour of Aziz’s new house in Ara Damansara, quite near the old Subang Airport. When old friends meet as usual we reminisce of the yesteryears as well as updating ourselves of acquaintances we have not met for a long time.

Aziz has already alerted me of his intention of presenting me his newly published maiden book aptly titled “A Rolling Stone...”, an adventure of a determine man who overcame the tribulations of life to be where he is now. Although the writing on the recollection of his life experience took a short time, the publication came into reality nearly 9 years after he started. I was in the know right from the beginning when he was still staying in Bukit Damansara. He showed me relevant piece of the manuscript which he felt was of interest to me, especially the one that mentioned my name. I was happy to be part of his cause, and gave strong encouragement as there was lack of such writing.

This book is not so much about the man himself. I conclude it should be a motivational text book for all who aspire to succeed based on principle, integrity, discipline, attitude and value. Aziz has met them all and steadfastly hold on.

This book is meant for all to read and digest. It is not only meant for the novice to emulate but for those still serving they should be aware of the pitfalls of the wayward. As for the retires the writing should be taken with a pinch of salt should it reflected on their past experiences.

We have so much talk about the lack of writing on past experience of local personalities for the reading of the new and fresh in take in whatever fields. Well, here is Aziz with his experience in the public (broadcasting) and private sector. He also talked about people of varied characters he has met. So the power that be in RTM should take note and recommend to the staff that this should be a must reading for them. The writing in English should not be a detriment. In fact it should be a tool to improve their skill of the language. After all Aziz is still part of us and we should be proud of his accomplishment, especially in publishing this book of his experience.

I came to know Aziz closely when I joined the Department of Radio (Radio Malaysia) late 1963. We somehow get along very well at the office. When he got married to Zaleha in 1964 he was a devoted husband. Our friendship was more in the office and later at sports location where we did commentary and reporting. I had a change of life and new circle of friends when I was in Penang 1966-1971. We were together again when I came back to Kuala Lumpur to serve the Malay Service to take charge of the duty schedules. We were in the same rank as BA2, BA1 and PA (Broadcasting Assistant Grade 2, 1 and Programme Assistant respectively) through most of our career, and appointed to the post at the same time. It is mentioned in his writing we were together with our unhappiness at not being promoted to the last 2 posts. Anyway we did not fret over that like a child who lost his toys. Work at hand was priority for us at that time and moment.

I was dumbstruck when Aziz told me his intention of resigning and going to the then Malay Service of the BBC Overseas Service in London. We were already in the middle hierarchy of RTM. He was doing well being supervisor in the Malay Broadcast and I was replacing the late Manaf Abdullah who was called by the Almighty at a young age in the Voice of Malaysia (Suara Malaysia). That was after the Public Affairs Services was downgraded after the departure of its supremo the late Dato’ Sulaiman Alias. I was puzzled of his intention as he has 5 growing up children to take care and here he was taking a big step into the unknown. Those days security comes first. He told me of his noble ambition of doing further study privately. It was the fashion of former RTM staff taking up law when they move to London those days, the like of Zulkifli Amin. It turned later I discovered Aziz was doing marketing and advertising in his spare time. He succeeded.

I met him three times in London, two of which while having a stop over from my arduous  journey home from Montreal (1976 Olympiad coverage with Zulkarnain Hassan) Buenos Aires (1978 Football World Cup coverage with Shaharoom Shahaban). The longest and enjoyable period I had with him for nearly seven months was in 1977 (May to November) when I was selected to be a bursar of the Imperial Relations Trust IRT, a British institution that took us into the British way of life, value and culture. I discovered that it was more of an indoctrination for broadcasters, teachers or those in labour movement from the former colonies. They gave us good allowances though. I made good use of the opportunity of learning the broadcasting trade with the BBC and the private station ITV beside the humdrum of visiting the British industries and country sides which I find fascinating.

Our common interest in sports gave me the opportunity of being taken around by Aziz to watch a friendly International of the English team at the old Wembley. I missed the FA Cup Final of that year as it happened the day after I arrived and well before I met the host IRT. Otherwise they could have arranged for a ticket as they did for the Wimbledon. I had the opportunity of being at the Centre Court with Aziz to witness the English lady Virginia Wade won the title for the first time for UK after so many disappointing years. We went to several Division 1 football matches (that was prior to the present English Premier League EPL). One that I remember vividly was when the in team of the time Queens Park Rangers QPR playing at home. Of course there was the opportunity of visiting the Oval, home of cricket.

I had 3 addresses when I was in London, Aziz’s Y-Hotel at Tottenham Court Road where I normally squatted, the warden flat at the MARA Hostel in Bayswater and a relative house way out in Windsor. The hostel warden was Farid Ariffin (now Dato’) an old friend in my Penang days where he was an adult student at the USM, being a former teacher (he rose to become the President of the Students’ Union). We go there for long chat and the sumptuous Malay cooking of Kak Yam (Datin Mariam). Farid did part time with the Malay Service to supplement his income besides studying law.

London was not a lonely stay for me as I had Aziz, Farid and a few other old friends to keep company beside the busy schedule of the IRT. I even had time to catch up with an old friend during my school days in Ipoh who happened to be our neighbour then.

I found Aziz was actually a very lonely man staying all by himself in London, with his family all by themselves in Kuala Lumpur. So he immersed himself in his work, study and passion for football and sports. I suppose my short presence was part of the respite from his loneliness. It was evident he was trying to make me as comfortable as possible to understand life there. I appreciate that very much.

Then came the day of happiness when he received his diploma. He made his way back to the open arm of his family and a new chapter in life in Kuala Lumpur.

We renewed our friendship. By that time I was already taking charge of the newly created Sports Service in RTM. Aziz talent and experience, especially in football where we normally do live broadcast of the matches in England came in handy. He readily agreed when I approached him for his expertise. So I don’t have to train a rookie for the job, as another old friend Rahim Razali (Dato’) was another willing experienced hand. So I had an easy passage in that area.

His career and work load took its bearing on us. Sadly Aziz went his way.

Many may consider Aziz “A Rolling Stone...” but he is no ordinary rolling stone that gathers no moss. In his own word he said he doesn’t need the moss, “a rolling stone is even better for being well polished”. Well done Aziz.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Forgotten

During the weekend of the Chinese New Year my brother Mustapa of Port Kelang alerted me of a Blog belonging to Hasbullah Latiff former journalist of RTM Sabah on RTM’s past and present. Both of them has been in touch ever since they came into the same group at Umrah in Mekah a couple of years back.

I am not familiar with Hasbullah because of the distance and nature of our work but met him a few times during our working days. We have updated each other’s existence through mutual acquaintances.

With his permission I am reproducing his post. His lamentation echoes the feelings of fellow RTM’ veterans.

Friday, February 12, 2010

RTM, Glamour atau Berbakat. 

Usia RTM menjangkau lebih 60 tahun. Institusi penyiaran tertua negara banyak melahirkan penyiar yang disegani dan dihormati diperingkat glokal dan global. mereka merupakan penyiar yang mahir dan benar-benar menonjol didalam bidang masing-masing seperti juruhebah radio (DJ), pengulas sukan, pengulas perisitiwa, berlakon drama, pengarah drama radio/tv, penyanyi, pengarah muzik, penerbit tv dan lain-lain.

Mereka kini semuanya telah bersara dan ada yang sebahagian besarnya telah kembali ke alam baqa. Hanya yang tinggal ialah nama dan kenangan kepada kawan-kawan yang masih hidup dalam usia tua.

Dari mula ia ditubuhkan sehingga tahun 80han, nama RTM sukar dicabar dalam semua bidang. Selpas itu, dalam era abad 20 RTM semakin menurun dan tinggallah nama besar bekas penyiar RTM dalam lipatan sejarah. Ini kerana nama-nama besar tersebut, seperti Abu Bakar Ahmad (Pak Bakar), Hashim Amir Hamzah, Dol Ramli, Siti Hawa Zain, Datin Norlidar Saidi, Dato Jaafar Kamin, Hj.Azhar Hj.Ahmad, Mahani Ujang, Siti Fatimah Noor, Datuk Johari Salleh, Datuk Ahmad Nawab, Datuk S.M.Salim, Datuk Aziz Wok, Nor Azah Aziz, Jamsari Mohamad, Roslee Jalil, Karim Muhammad, Jamaluddin Alias (penyanyi lagu-lagu patriotik RTM), Amran Hamid, Zulkarnian Hassan dan ramai lagi termasuk yang masih berada penyiaran kini, seperti Hj.Hasbullah Awang, Datuk Ab.Rahman Ab.Hamid dan beberapa orang lain.

Bagi peminat rancangan-rancangan RTM awal tahun 60han hingga 80han, tentu mereka tau siapa nama-nama besar yang disebutkan itu. Ibarat mereka didalam bidang sukan, mereka para pemenang pingat emas yang mewakili negara, tetapi tidak ada sebarang pingat dan hadiah cemerlang diperingkat awal, kecuali selepas tahun 80han hingga kini, wujudnya pelbagai hadiah cemerlang, kualiti dan lain-lain.

Bagaimana mereka gah dan tersohor, kerana mereka mempunyai bakat semulajadi masing-masing sebagai juruhebah, pelakon dan penerbit drama, penyanyi dan pemain muzik serta pengacara. Bakat yang ada mereka, digunakan sepenuhnya demi memartabatkan RTM sebagai penyiar ulung negara. Mereka tidak mencari nama kerana GLAMOUR.

Saya sempat bergaul dengan semua mereka yang saya namakan itu, dan banyak saya belajar dari pengalaman mereka. Mereka ialah insan tidak sombong dan angkuh dengan bakat kurniaan ALLAH kepada mereka. Saya mula berjinak dengan penyiaran awal tahun 70han. Dari Pak Bakar hingga terakhir dengan datuk Jumaat Engson, bekas Pengarah Penyiaran kini di Angkasapuri Kuala Lumpur, banyak saya menimba pengalaman didalam bidang penyiaran.


Hari ini saya dengar, saya nampak dan bergaul, ramai dikalangan generasi baru RTM lebih kepada glamour, kerana penyiar lain, baikpun di stesen tv dan radio mampu menandingi kemampuan penyiar RTM dalam banyak segi, terutama glamour dan publisiti melampau, sedangkan penyiar RTM kurang mendapat publisiti. Bagi saya, publisiti perkara kedua, yang penting, nama kita gah di persada alam penyiaran sebagai penyampai berita berita terbaik, pengacara tv terbaik, pengulas sukan yang tepat dan padat, penerbit tv yang sentiasa tidak kering dengan ilham dan daya kreativiti tinggi.
Kita ada IPPTAR, kenapa tokoh-tokoh penyiar lama, dahulunya ramai yang masih hidup tidak digunakan kepakaran mereka, bagaimana cara mereka bekerja, komitmen mereka dan lain-lain.

Artikal didalam blog saya ini,sekadar memberi pandangan agar RTM bangkit kembali seperti era 50han,60han,70han dan 80han. Kita mampu bangkit, tetapi biarlah berusaha bersungguh-sungguh kerana kita ada pakar dan mereka yang arif didalam semua bidang penyiaran. Sedangkan kita ada sekolah, tetapi sekolah kita untuk orang lain. Kenapa?
Pak Menteri harus tahu.. dari IPTAR (Institut Penyiaran Tun Ab.Razak) institut yang kerapkali saya pergi belajar untuk penerbitan radio/tv dari tahun 70han hingga bersara (2004) dinaikkan taraf kepada IPPTAR (Institut Peyiaran dan Penerangan Tun Ab.Razak).

Semasa masih bergelar IPTAR, kita menerima banyak pelatih dalam dan luar negara serta pelajar IPTA tempatan. Tetapi sehingga sekarang masih belum diiktiraf sebagai institut yang laku sijilnya….kenapa?
RTM harus bangkit dan tebus kembali maruah penyiaran yang kini direbut oleh pihak lain.

Kenapa terjadi demikian, kerana RTM sendiri cuba melupakan

Posted by hasbullahlatiff at 1:04 AM

I find there is some truth in what Hasbullah says. Though he echoed the laments of compatriots of his period, the only different is that the time warp between the pioneering days and the present has to be taken into account. Nothing can compare centuries of treasure of experiences combined possessed by the pioneering broadcasters. Ways must be exploited to apply or adapt those so called experiences to the need of the present situation. Those serving RTM officers are too busy to look into ways of assimilating or making good use of these experiences.

After 15 years into retirement I find truth in the old adage among us former broadcasters “we just fade away”. Soon we are forgotten. Those heard over the air and appeared on TV may sometime find embarrassment should they be recognised by aging fans.

Most of us find solace in catching up with things we missed when performing our chosen career seriously. I spent the first half year of retirement seeing the whole country and getting to know the ground, especially my ROOT and the place where my ancestors and heritage originated. The time spent catching up with long lost relatives and friends were worth the while. We were breathless for time taking care of our children in chasing our career, now we dotted on the grandchildren as if to make up for the lost time. Most of us spent substantial time getting involved in social activities. Now we find a new pool of friends with similar interests in the neighbourhood. The hereafter is close to our heart in this closing chapter of life.

So much so, broadcasting and RTM is no more a priority to most of us but when posting like Hasbullah came along it evokes sentimentalities, strong memories and the spirit de corps of the bygone days.

Except for the far and in between invitations in the early days of retirement I have not been to Angkasapuri proper for ages. The tight security at the gate these days made the place look like Fort Knox or Kamunting Camp which really put me off. I just assume visitors are not wanted. How do you operate an entertainment icon when it has an adverse effect on those who are suppose to be the target audience. Why the over protections. It is time the Ministry move over to their proper place in Putrajaya and make room for the Broadcasting Department RTM to bring back some of their services and staff scattered all over Kelang Valley under one roof, if not in the same compound at Bukit Putra. I just wonder if the Minister and his officials really understand the slogan the Prime Minister espoused, while having RTM’s staff going separate ways and not together as ONE. Until they do then the slogan RTM has been espousing has no meaning to RTM itself. Come on, Dato Seri Utama and Dato’ KSU, move over.

As for training all of us were brought up in the old school ways, learn as you work, until IPTAR came along. IPTAR and its successor IPPTAR has gone off its tangent from its original objectives. Neither has it advance like many similar institutions in the public and private sectors. The others have upgraded itself even to university level and producing productive graduates in demand in the open market. IPPTAR has been supplied with sophisticated training facilities and equipment which has not been properly utilised. It has beautiful and spacious buildings and extensions. Its Director has been upgraded from the former Super-scale G to JUSA “B”. I wouldn’t be able to explain the rationale behind the upgrading. Perhaps somebody owes us veteran explanations on that. Veteran RTM will be happy to hear of the news that the training centre follow the footsteps of other similar institutions in producing graduates rather than giving out certificates of participation which become relics on the walls. Come on Dato’ Pengarah IPPTAR, go on or go off.

Broadcasting has advance by leap and bound from its pioneering days following sophisticated technological developments. In this country the coming of the private sector into broadcasting has added new dimension. Comparison of the pioneering days and the present cannot be equated on the same scale. No way can we compare the sedate and relaxing ways of operations when RTM was a monopoly to the present hustle and bustle of chasing time at the behest of competion between stations.

In the old days the updating depended on the presence of a representative on the location or the phone. Then the telex machine ruled. It was accompanied by the national news agency Bernama later. The telex was overtaken by the telefax (fax). Now it is the computer and the internet which has become mobile and smaller. The computer chips has revolutionised the media world and its coverages. It has even become its competitor. Now even the DJs in the studios very much depended on it to update themselves. So comparison of the old and the current become lopsided.

As for pioneering broadcasters of our time we use to carry the heavy wired tape machines to interviews. It became slightly lighter with expensive but reliable Swiss made machine Nagra with its open reel tape or its cheaper but problematic competitors. When the light cassette tapes Sony recorder came into the market there were long and unnecessary argument to its broadcasting quality but at the end common sense and practicality prevail. Now all has gone mobile, mini recorder, phone, ipod and the like. So much for radio operation.

Over TV the advancement was almost similar. Initially the film cameras ruled. Then the 2 inches machines became obsolete, taken over by the smaller 1 inch tapes operations. Later the Beta Cassette inches its way and dump the bigger and heavier machines. It seems these days the DVD rules the operations. The same goes the way of the cameras for news and programme materials gatherings. I could see even BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera resorting to mobile to file on the field reports. I understand even Bernama TV is utilising G3 facilities for its outside broadcasts and field coverages. I have to update myself on this.

Everything seems to have gone smaller and lighter. So there is not much room for comparison on the same scale between the old and new.

RTM has to arise to the challenges not only from its private sector competitors as well the local satellite broadcaster and much more from the New Media which has arrived aggressively to capture the heart (and perhaps the mind) of the world.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Changing Phase

Never in my wildest dream that my future would be in broadcasting when I was in school. I never thought of being an announcer and commentator. I didn’t even realise the existence of such career then. When I applied for the post in Radio Malaysia it was merely a job that gave better salary according to the standard of the day.

It was a new challenge, culture and way of life I have to face. I was a laid back fellow with few friends whom I move around with around the area between Sentul and Chow Kit. I never look at the religious and ethnic differences of fellow beings as espoused by the founding father of the country Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. I was a believer in him on that. In fact I was renting a room in a flat of a loving Chinese couple in the then Circular Road (now Jalan Tun Razak), near the then round-about a stone throw from the Maxwell School where I was a temporary teacher prior to my new job. My live revolve around the area, I was getting familiar with the people and surrounding.

All that come to an abrupt end the moment I reported for duty at the then Malay Service of Radio Malaysia in December 1963. Many were puzzled as to my choice of residence as most of my new colleagues were staying in the Malay majority area of Kampong Baru, mostly at Encik Aziz Abu Hassan’s rented rooms. Another puzzled to them were my acquaintances with our English Service colleagues Yeap Swee Choon and Tan Jin Chor whom many considered as elitist being in the higher bracket of service. It just so happened they were my closed friends in our Pantai days. Surely we could not be ignoring each other. Like my colleagues in the Malay Service they helped me a great deal to get familiar with the job and life at hand.

My table position in the open concept office at the 6th floor of the Federal House was strategic. It was bordering the English Service and quite close to the Chinese and Indian Services. So it was not a strange coincident that I was frequently in close contact with the English Service announcers.

I worked hard and diligently to acclimatised and familiarised myself with the job at hand. My basic main task was to write scripts for feature and documentary radio programmes, including translating and adapting into Malay scripts, documents and manuscripts from English. I also have to produce such programmes, besides being the announcer and compere of the show. There was no proper and official training like today where new staffs have the benefit of getting to know the job at the training centre. It was hands on then, learning the job while working. I find that interesting as there was no room for error or trial. We have to be alert and on the go at all time. Sometime we have to be on the air live, while at other time we have the pleasure of pre recording. We were advised not to waste materials (tapes) and to save time.

I also like the system of introducing new voices over the air in those early times. No new voices were allowed on the air direct (live). The owner of the new voices have to go through weeks, may be months of practice and trial before being “certified” fit. Some were lucky to find their voices on the air through recorded programmes. That can be considered as being close to the verge of going “live” as announcer.

There was another category of announcer, the News Readers. They were considered special people. Not everyone is allowed to read the news, especially on the so called “primetime”. They must have special voice quality with flawless reading ability. They go through rigorous training and vetting. So those new voices could only be found on the fringe and insignificant hours unless an emergency arise, which could be a ticket into “stardom” (the higher bracket).

The elitists among the announcers were those who handle live commentary of events, ceremonies and of course sporting matches. They have to have the ability and knack to describe scenes as they come into view. I must add they must have good memories and read widely on various subjects especially the one at hand.

I consider myself a fast learner. Within a month I was left on my own to produce programmes with my own writings. I was also allowed to voice the programmes. That was very fast and advance. I read the fringe news within 2 months. Within 3 months I was assisting my colleagues in live commentary of events. I have to thanks Encik Tahir Ramli for that as he gave me a free hand in producing documentary programmes with actual effects and interviews that I handle myself  with minimum supervision by him. That was a valuable lesson we cannot learn anywhere. Being a proficient and experienced broadcaster, Encik Tahir was a good teacher, friend and mentor. He was the most senior of the staff next to our Head of Service and Programme Organiser. I was sad and missed his company when he left RTM years later. I have no knowledge or reason of his decision except to go for greener pasture. I have many fond memories of those good old days when we moved around together.

As  my circle of friends widen in the office I found that my abode became an oddity, as I could not give proper explanation to my choice of residence. I was sad to make the sad decision of leaving the place, the people and surrounding that I was so familiar with. Anyway, life has got to move on. It was just another changing phase.

When I was approached by my colleague in the Agriculture Broadcast Service Majid Kayat who is in the same bracket post as I, I found the idea of sharing a flat attractive. So we settled for the Blue Boy Mansion along the busy Jalan Pudu, opposite the old Straits Times centre. The place is still there. It’s a two rooms flat rented at a princely sum of $150.00, about the basic initial pay of a public sector staff with a School Certificate qualification. Most of our colleague started in that category.

We split up the rent. I paid up front the one month deposit, power and water deposits, took care of the furnishing and fridge instalments, and bought an oil stove for cooking (there was no gas those days). The telephone line was fixed up. We even had a Mak Chik from Kampong Baru to clean up the place on a daily basis during the daY except the week-end at $50.00 monthly. To top it she cooked our lunch and dinner. As for the washing of our clothing we decided the dhobi or “do it yourself” (DIY) service would be a better choice for obvious reason.

Words went around like wild fire in the office about the new residence. Soon we have droves of friends and colleagues visiting us even at odd hours of the night. It became sort of a “journeymen inn”. I feel the location of the place was convenient. It’s very near the then Pudu Bus Centre (now Pudu Raya) and quite close to the entertainment centre of the bygone days, Bukit Bintang Park. Being young and thrifty we did brisk walking to and from the office except on the occasional “emergency” situation it was the rare efficient and friendly taxi service which was quite cheap became the top choice. So much for the place being centrally located and within reached we became popular and well known among our private circle.

I find the attention to our place very helpful in my widening of knowledge of the broadcasting world through interaction. Those who came were the luminaries of the Malaysian radio broadcasts of the day. Colleagues from the Malay Service were always there. From the English broadcasts we had the late Manaf Abdullah, Leslie Dawson, Syed Alwi (later Dato) and Tan Jin Chor. They came to play their favourite game of “Scrabble” in their free time. They know I have a scrabble set in the house, and they wanted to beat me at the game all the time as they were intrigue as to how I mastered the game. They always teased me “How can we allow this Malay broadcaster to beat us at this game of our language”. It was a friendly banter. The final “loser” was always me as I have to supply coffee and juices for the guests. The Mak Chik was always at hand to prepare the drinks. I find that kind of meeting kept our bond closer and the esprit de corps alive.

The nocturnal activity was mainly concentrated at the then Bukit Bintang BB Park where the main entertainment centre of KL was located. Good music and dancing was at the Cabaret. For the consummate of Malay equivalent it was the Joget Centre. The Chinese Opera was always crowded. Bangsawan was in its dying days as the support was waning especially with the coming of television. The occasional strip tease show by its queen Rose Chan and her contemporaries were forever full house. For the young and boisterous there was the dodgem car centre where one drove the machine at will to bang into each others’. It was fun as normally young couple sat beside each other in one car as if driving into the beyond.

The “star” attraction of the place that attracted our attention was placed at one isolated corner of the Park where some sort of gaming drew big enthusiasts. It was given the name “bola golek” where a ping-pong ball was rolled by one of the participant onto a board that contained the 10 numerals, roulette style. Bets using chips were placed at the odd of one to eight. Closing time was sharp midnight. Some came out smiling but most looked grim at the end. There was consolation for the clean-out loser; the betting master would refund $1.00 for taxi fare. It was noticeable that majority would rather placed that on the betting table again at different stall hoping for a windfall or ending up walking home. When there was a knock on the door slightly past midnight we knew it must be someone who had a bad spell at the stall.

When young men get together they went for some kind of card game called “Terup Keling” to while the time. I suppose the name derived from the card game that the Indians played. To add thrill participants would take bet like the loser paying for tea or dinner. Eventually a smart guy came around and proposed a bet to add thrill and excitement. This was what happened at our place. The card game eventually ended with the game of Poker and a few got addicted to it. I can proudly say in this case that I came clean with my principle of not teaching anything that will cause eventual hardship in later life to people. Neither did I encourage borrowings to those addicted. It was a matter of each to one’s own self. My only fault was allowing the activity to go on in our place and I myself sometime got involved with some session just to pass the time and “keep the quorum”.

As the famous saying goes, all good thing has got to end, and the end came when Majid decided to get married at the end of 1964. He wanted to have the place to himself. As goodwill gesture for the newly wedded couple’s happiness I withdrew myself and move on.

I found a more spacious place in a three rooms flat at the 6th floor of the Malayan Mansion beside the Mesjid India in the once notorious area known as “Belakang Mati”. It is now known by a much holier name of Jalan Mesjid India. I took the master bedroom with bathroom attached, and shared it my good friend Ramli Samad. The other room was taken by Salleh Bakar who was in the then Malay Administrative Service MAS which was eventually integrated into the Administrative and Diplomatic Service better known as PTD. Salleh eventually was Secretary to the Senate before he retired. He now prefers to be known by his full name of Haji Mohd Salleh bin Abu Bakar or his pen name of HMS Abu Bakar. He now resides in Ipoh and passes his time writing the “sajak” (poetry) his outlook of current affairs to be impart to friends via the post. The last room was taken by one by the name of Hassan who worked in the private sector dealing with agriculture. The last time we talked to each other was over the phone about 3 years back. He said he was staying in Kajang.

Ramli was then transferred to Ipoh to become the pioneer broadcaster of Perak state. As he was reluctant to leave behind his growing fans, I have quite a time convincing him that he would be contributing great service to the people of the state and he would find his eventual happiness there. Yes he did. He found the girl of his life in Azian. They got married and live happily ever after in Ipoh until her demise last year.

When Ramli left, Kamal Baharin Nan Abidin volunteered to take over his place. I took him in. Kamal eventually left Radio Malaysia to join the Malaysian Airline System MAS. The last time I enjoyed his company was in Madras (now Chennai) in the 1980s when he was the MAS operation manager there. I had an interline stopover in Madras after attending the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Sports Study Group (SSG) meeting in New Delhi. After a night sojourn at the lavish Savira Hotel at MAS expense, I spent another three days at Kamal’s posh residence. I was taken around the expanse city. I found the crowded Bazaar very intriguing as almost get everything in life was to be found there. The lonely beach facing the India Ocean towards the east and eventually Malaysia was fantastic.

Life at Malayan Mansion was more sedate compared to Blue Boy Mansion. Most of the guys have moved on in life. Some got married while others were busy on the verged of one. I suppose the work load and responsibility were getting heavier for many. Perhaps the new company I was having was not compatible to most. Furthermore the place was not centrally located and out of the way of the entertainment outlet such as BB Park though much nearer to our working place at the Federal House. It could be the call of the muezzin next to the flat discouraged the “sinners” from coming over.

Eventually all came to an end. At the end of 1965 I received my transfer order. I reported to be the Malay Programme Organiser MPO of the Northern region based in Penang commencing January 1, 1966. I left the familiarity of Kuala Lumpur with a tinge of sadness but looking forward to the beginning of a new phase in life optimistically.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Binding Factor

This morning, Wednesday 3rd February 2010, my wife and I respectively received similar SMSes from our old friends informing us of the passing of Datuk Abdullah Majid (85), former Deputy Minister of Labour and Manpower under Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn. We didn’t actually know him personally. I just happened to have met him on several occasions in my line of duty. We knew that he was from Raub, Pahang where he served as its Member of Parliament after the 1974 General Election, and his burial took place at Kampung Durian Sebatang, Dong, Raub.

I have met his younger brother often. Dato Haji Wahab Majid who is active in social work, being the Nazir of Tun Abdul Aziz Mosque in Section 14, Petaling Jaya, known as “Mesjid Bulat” (Round Mosque) in reference to its shape.

We also knew they were close friend of the Poet Laureate and Sasterawan Negara Dato Dr Osman Awang. My wife’s friend who informed her of the passing was Haslina, eldest daughter of “Tongkat Waran” (Osman’s pen-name in the literary world).

My first incident of getting to know Dolah Majid, as he was fondly known then, was when he was detained in Kamunting Camp, Taiping, under the Internal Security Act, ISA. His niece Zaiton Shamsuddin who was then serving in RTM approached me one fasting month and requested if I could deliver a “Baju Raya” (Hari Raya clothing) for his uncle through my brother who was then the Director of the Camp. I was taken aback as how the relationship came to her knowledge. I didn’t ask her, as it was an open secret anyway. So I enquired from my brother if it could be done. His answer was in the affirmative referring to the auspicious occasion.

That year I spent the Hari Raya holiday at my late mother’s house in Kamunting. I complained to my brother of the overcrowding at the mosque in Kamunting Town as that was the only one in that fast growing area and there was no proper “suraus” around at that time including the kampongs surrounding the Camp. My brother assured me that he will fetch me for a comfortable Hari Raya prayer.

That morning I was surprised he took me to the Camp’s Surau to perform the prayer among the detainees and the Camp’s staff. It was indeed comfortable and not so crowded. The sermon was short and sweet befitting the occasion and place. I thought that after the prayer we would just leave for home, but the congregation was allowed to mix freely on the auspicious day to enjoy the goodies specially laid for them.

That was when I became a popular figure among four detainees, led by Syed Hussain (my tutor during my Pantai days), Kassim Ahmad, Abdullah Ahmad (better known as DKL, Dolah Kok Lanas, the constituency he once represented in Parliament), and the late Datuk. On recognising me, they rushed to greet me wanting to know the going on outside. The only answer I could give was nothing much has changed as what they could follow on the television that’s available to them and the newspapers that they were getting.

The topic then changed to sports and football. I was surprised as to how conversant and knowledgeable they were on the subject. They told me they have been following the live football telecasts RTM has been carrying, and heard my commentary and comments which they like. They were certainly very observant and really know their stuff. The late Datuk was reserved in his comment, and thanked me for helping in delivering the Baju Raya from his family in Kuala Lumpur. The other three was very boisterous and made many constructive suggestions as how to improve the programme. I took note and pass them to the relevant people in Angkasapuri as I was then in the Voice of Malaysia, and was only a TV commentator on casual basis.

From my interaction with the gentlemen I realise that one of the common denominator and binding factor among our multi ethnic, religious and cultural society is sports, and sports programme over television and radio has a big following. I realised this and made every effort to present to the power that be, RTM need to have a Sports Division. I was asked by the then Director-General Dato’ Abdullah Mohamad to write a working paper and made a presentation to that effect. I was happy my effort did not go to waste as the Treasury and the Public Service Department agreed to the proposal. The formation came into effect on 1st January 1982. I was made the pioneer head of the Sports Division.

As the planning, execution and work load at the new Division was heavy and need special attention I took the option of retiring myself from being a commentator, to save some embarrassment should I make mistakes. I made it a point to polish up the existing commentators and talent scout and trained new ones. The same went for the script writers and the production crew. I feel I have achieved the target set as at the next promotion exercise, I have to leave the Sports Division for a higher post.

Looking back, I still believe that sport is one of those factors that can bind this country peacefully. Special attention should be given to nurture this factor and create a culture.

Just look at some of the sports that break the racial barrier for decades past as far as support and attendance is concern if we can call them sport, such as “Cock Fighting”, “Top Spinning”, “Laga Lembu” (Bullfight), “Bird Singing”, “Kite Flying” just to mention some. The diehards take great pain to traverse the country and international boundaries to witness and support their sports. Their esprit de corps is solid and undivided. They exchange ideas and go a long way to help each other and assist their sport flourish. Most of the sport did not have the benefit of government support or grant. Yet they flourish on their own steam and supporters goodwill.

In short sport is big business. It generates an industry by itself. There is no reason for it to be given the back seat by the power that be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remembering King Ghaz

I heard the announcement Tun Ghazali Shafie is to be given a state  funeral and buried at the Warriors’ Mausoleum in the compound of Mesjid Negara (the National Mosque) on Monday 25th January 2010. It is an honour deservedly given to a great statesman who has contributed greatly to the Nation in its growing years.

I don’t know Tun personally but came across him on several occasions in my line of duty especially when he was Minister of Broadcasting and Information. He was considered by many as a “feared” boss, mainly for being a disciplinarian and perfectionist. I beg to differ on the word “fear” as on the occasions that I encountered him, I found him a charming person and willing to engage in discussion on various subjects.
I first heard of him during the formation of Malaysia. He was then the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Ministry. His name was in the limelight as he was the Permanent Adviser to the Cobbold Commission that reviewed the opinion of the people of Sabah and Sarawak. He was better known as “King Ghaz” (a character in the Alley Oop cartoon of old) for his no nonsense approach in his work. It seems that was how he was “feared”.

The aftermath of the 13 May incident following the 1969 General Election change the course of history of the country and with it the social and economic outlook. The New Economic Policy was introduced. Soon after, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj handed over the Prime Ministership to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. This was when Tun Ghazalie came to the forefront. He was made Special Function Minister to oversee that national unity is truly fostered in the country. He was responsible for introducing the Rukunegara (the National Tenet). Then he became the Minister of Broadcasting and Information.

Tun was very keen in Sports. He became the President of the Malaysia Amateur Athletics Union MAAU. He wanted a sports song to unite the sports fraternity of the country. He asked his old friend the renowned and prolific composer the late Jimmy Boyle to pen-down the song. Jimmy approached me for the lyrics in Bahasa Melayu. I told Jimmy frankly that I knew nothing about music or writing lyric. So Jimmy was very patient and took the trouble to
coach me the rudimentary of music composition and encouraged me to produce an inspiring lyric. So I diligently did my best to follow Jimmy’s instruction to the letter, and produce what I thought was an inspiring lyric. We recorded a piano piece and another with the vocal by one of the local singer. It was sent to Tun’s office in Angkasapuri. Later we were asked to come to his office and that was the first time I met him in person. The song “Sukan Malaysia” became the theme song of RTM’s sports programme for many years. That was the only lyric I have ever written for a song and I am proud to be in partnership with a great musician in Jimmy Boyle.

I was stationed in Penang then but when the Public Affairs Department was created in RTM, its Director the late Dato’ Sulaiman Alias, a confidante of Tun, selected me to be in the Department after seeing my multi-racial interviews for a TV segment. I was transferred to Kuala Lumpur in 1972. The first time I met Tun face to face again was when I was asked to be the commentator for the live telecast of the 1973 Merdeka Day. He was Chairman of the Organising Committee. He was a stickler for perfection, and the crew was apprehensive. I was quite nervous as I was very raw at TV commentary. It was a coincident that his Senior PrivateSecretary, Ahmad Musa, was an acquaintance in his teaching days while I was in Penang. So I decided to have a chat with Ahmad and jokingly told him to inform his “garang” boss that the commentator was his pal who wrote the Sports Song.

Doing TV work is quite tedious. There were so many things to attend to, not counting the several meetings and briefings, as it involved many people. Two important meetings involved the Minister, his briefing prior to the coverage planning of the occasion, and later the post-mortem of the recording of the full dress rehearsal. The later was the one feared by many. We were expecting the worst that afternoon from the King. Fortunately he came out smiling and said “Well done. Make sure we get the same result on the actual morning”. We were relief. As usual he had his parting shot, and told our Producer Shaharoom Shaaban, “Make sure your closing shot of the crowd is tight, as we don’t want the audience to see a sparse crowd on the screen”. That was a brilliant observation. We have another post mortem on the actual day recordings and we came out top.

The other occasion that I encountered Tun was at the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union MAAU meet at the newly built Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan, Pahang. Tun was the President of the MAAU. I was doing live radio coverage for the National Network. We heard over the news that the Deputy Prime Minister, the late Tun Dr. Ismail passed away during his official visit to Canada. We have invited Tun Ghazalie for an interview prior to receiving the news. During the interview we received instruction from Kuala Lumpur to prolong the interview as long as possible while they prepare for a sombre broadcast from Kuala Lumpur. So I had a field day talking live on the air with Tun on several topics related to sports and athletics. We went on for about 90 minutes, one of the longest interviews I had with a prominent personality. When it was finished, Tun waited to give his parting shot with a smile to me “so you use me as a filler, eh?”, thats broadcasting term for filling the gap.

The last time I met him again was about two years ago at the funeral of the German husband of my old friend Fawizah Deen better known as Kak Chik at the mosque in USJ 2. Tun was there wheel chair bound. He was a forlorn figure by himself. So I brave myself to approach him. He seems excited, gave me a big hug, and seems to remember me. I could not converse with him as his speech was limited, although he tried hard to express himself. I was quite sad at not being able to have a conversation like the time I interviewed him.