Congratulations to RTM for clinching yet again the broadcasting rights of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The national broadcaster has been covering the Olympics since the 1960 Rome Olympics through its Radio arm before TV Malaysia came into existence in 1963. It was a one man show by the late Murtadza Zaaba who was a competent sports broadcaster in his own right. He set the commentary standard over Radio Malaya. He rose to be the Deputy-Director of Broadcasting Radio.
Those early days of broadcasting in this country, the question of the Olympic broadcasting rights never arise, not until the private sector got involved in TV broadcasting in 1984. There was no strong interest in its coverage as the country was not involved in sports at international standard in the early days.
When television came to the country in 1963, we were getting film reports of the Games via the BBC for the Olympics in Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968.
We became interested in the Games when the national football team qualified for the Munich 1972 Olympics. We sent 2 commentators to cover the national contingent for Radio, Aziz Ibrahim (Malay) and R. Jeyanathan (English). Aziz also double-up for TV commentary. Unfortunately the football team did not reach the next round although they played reasonably well. The Munich Olympics was much remembered by international political furore created by the group known as “Black September” resulting in RTM reducing its coverage for security reason.
RTM did a reasonable coverage of the next Olympic in Montreal, Canada 1976. The national Hockey team which finished 4th at the World Hockey Championship in KL in 1975 qualified for the Olympics. Unfortunately the team did not fare too well due to internal differences in the team. RTM was concentrating on the TV coverage. The 3 men team was led by Sports Producer Kassim Aris. The commentators were Amran Hamid and Zulkarnain Hassan. This Olympics is well remembered for its financial disaster for its host which has not been resolved to this day.
At the next Olympics in Moscow, Soviet Union, 1980 the national football team for the second time qualified. For the record the national Hockey team was also a qualifier. Unfortunately Malaysia was among the 65 countries to boycott the Games during the cold war period in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. RTM has to abandon its coverage plan.
The boycott continued to the next Games at Los Angeles 1984. This time by the Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Block for safety reason. The boycott by the Soviet Union did not affect the Olympics. In fact it was the first time that an organising committee of the Olympics made a profit. The Game was run on a commercial basis, a forerunner to future Olympics. The Olympics itself was a success.
The 1984 was well remembered by RTM for the broadcasting rights debacle with the newly emerged private broadcaster “Sistem Televisyen Malaysia” (TV3). TV3 was given the licence to TV broadcast and not Radio. It wanted to create an impression by clinching the broadcasting rights directly with the Organising Committee in Los Angeles at 20 times above the amount that was negotiated by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) on behalf of RTM. The irony was that TV3 was not launched to broadcast officially before the Olympics and its coverage area was only in Klang Valley. The media and the public came hard on this forcing TV3 to extend the rights to RTM barely a week prior to the LA Olympics.
RTM was ill prepared for the coverage and left it to TV3 for the hand-outs. RTM did its best to get the satellite booking to bring over its coverage and transmission with careful coordination with the ABU coverage team in LA and Hong Kong. It was too late for RTM to send a team to LA for its coverage and decided to concentrate its operation at Angkasapuri.
It was strange, with less facilities, RTM emerged the better of the two organisations in terms of viewers, commercial supports and the final press reviews including those under the Media Prima stables. RTM has to thanks its capable staff and commentators for the good work.
The 1988 Seoul Olympics saw a real tough competition in term of coverage between RTM and TV3. By this time TV3 has matured and they have been pinching some of the fringe workers in RTM Sports Department to supplement their regulars. The broadcasting right was shared equally and negotiated via the ABU when TV3 decided to be its member. RTM sent a team of 5 to cover the sports in Korea and maintain the anchor in Angkasapuri. The team in Korea was ably led by Zulkarnain Hassan (Team Leader) and Isamudin Ahmad (Producer) while on the spot commentator was Hasbullah Awang. The anchor at Angkasapuri was Rahim Razali and the chief coordinator was Amran Hamid who secured the broadcasting rights for RTM earlier. Basing on the ratings, commercials and advertising, and the final summary of the coverage by the local press, RTM was on top.
I negotiated for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain and planned its coverage but was not directly involved with the coverage as I was posted to Kuching as the Director of Broadcasting of the Sarawak Region. The team to Barcelona was led by the capable Isamuddin Ahmad. I was watching the normal TV transmissions that reach Sarawak and was happy to note that the team did well in their effort. There was great joy in Malaysia when the Badminton pair of brothers Razif and Jailani Sidek won the maiden Olympic Medal in the Men’s Double, a Bronze.
I did assist in negotiating the l996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA but was not involved in the planning of its coverage by RTM as I retired from service in 1995. I continued to enjoy the meticulous coverage by RTM and its rival TV3. By that time Malaysia was doing well in the newly introduced sports at the Olympics, Badminton. There was great hope in winning the country’s first Olympic Gold Medal but we have to be satisfied with the Silver won by Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock in the Men’s Double and Bronze by Rashid Sidek in the Men’s Single.
With the dawn of the new millennium the broadcasting scenario interest in Malaysia took a turn with the introduction of the satellite broadcasts by Astro who were interested in Sports. As their stable control the satellite communication of Measat, they had access to the signals through the rental by international broadcasting bodies in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Astro Sports had the luxury of broadcasting the Olympics over its multi channels broadcast. Of course Astro gained the Olympics right being the sole satellite broadcaster in the country.
Due to lack of capable personals in broadcasting TV3 interests in sports seem to be on the wane, leaving RTM a wider open space in Olympics and other sports coverage for the local terrestrial broadcaster. This was obvious in the subsequent Olympics (2000 Sydney, Australia, 2004 Athens, Greece, 2008 Beijing, China and 2012 London, Great Britain).
Malaysian team at the Olympics hit a a dry spell in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 without increasing its Medal haul. Badminton ace Dato’ Lee Chong Wei did Malaysia proud by gaining the Silver at the Beijing Olympic 2008 in the Men’s Single event Final losing to China’s Lin Dan. There is great hope for more Medals at London 2012.
Although RTM as the national broadcaster seem to be at an advantage in obtaining the broadcasting rights for the Olympics there are three main areas it has to concentrate and improve:
1) The technical facilities and know-how must be improved and updated in accordance with the changing time and development. This goes without saying the men operating the technical must also keep in steps.
2) The production personal has to be trained the proper art of sports coverage.
3) The commentators have to be trained and capable of handling with deep knowledge of individual discipline in the Olympics.