Monday, February 6, 2012

The Hazard of Sports Commentating

Malaysia’s Olympic dream was shattered after the national football team were beaten 2-1 by Bahrain in their Asia Zone Olympic Group C qualifier at the National Stadium in Manama yesterday, Sunday 5 February 2012.

The match was well publicise in the media. RTM went to town promoting its live broadcast for many days. There were endless discussions in the social network Face Book. Though the match started at midnight viewers were glued to their set in support of the team and hoping for a second appearance at the prestigious London Game 2012. The national team first and last appearance was 40 years back in 1972 at the Munich Olympics. Though they did qualify for the Moscow Games in 1980, the team did not make their appearance due to international boycott for the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Malaysia joined the boycott.

I was one of those who watched the live telecast from Bahrain. Knowing the national team ability I was not confident they would gain full point from the weak Arab side in the desert. I was more interested in watching the quality of coverage which included the local commentating.

Hafizal Hamad did well in introducing the programme with all the facts stored in his “Tab” so much so he forget which camera he was suppose to be on. In my time we didn’t have the luxury of even a computer. We were given only the cyclostyle sheet of the team list and we have to research our own on the match. Much later came the telex and much more lately the faxes. It was when I was about to retire we had the luxury of print out from the internet.

Then the picture move to the Stadium in Manama with Dato Haji Hasbullah Awang as usual handling the live commentary single handed. RTM has stopped using co-commentator for sometime as the so called expert consisting of ex players and coaches were not up to the mark in their delivery although they were very good in their knowledge of the game and the match analysis.

I was disappointed with the commentary as Hasbullah seem to be uneasy with his delivery. His presentation with his booming voice was very good. The sound was hollow which mean he was commentating from an off tube booth most likely from RTM Sports centre at the IBC in Angkasapuri. I have not been to the centre that was fully utilised for the Commonwealth Game (Sukom) in 1996 after my retirement. I don’t have to verify this with RTM – experienced as head of Sports in RTM tell me so.

RTM did not send any personal to the venue for reasons known only to them which I will not speculate.

In my time we sent commentators and technical staff to the venue for live broadcast (commentating). May be at that time we don’t have the luxury of being fed with piles of information via the internet. Besides having the feel of the atmosphere they gained experience and knowledge in sports coverage which was an immense value to their work and would assist RTM in their coverage. They also met other TV crews on the spot and exchanged knowledge.

I noticed Hasbullah was at a lost to the names of the 22 players on the field as the visual was miniscule. He seems to be familiar with the Malaysian players. He was able to read the game as the flow was quite clear. So he tended to stray from mentioning names of the opposition unless he was dead sure. This weak spot may escape the attention of the ordinary viewers. I don’t think this escape the attention of the critical ones.

 On the whole Hasbullah did much better than the so-called expert commentators in English language over Astro Super sports which were utilising the same signal. They too were doing the commentary in the studio booth at the Asia Broadcasting Centre, Astro’s home. Obviously the pair of commentators has not much experience in match commentating. They were more of match analysts. So they were lost when it came to naming players and turn on their reading of the match instead which I found a bore after sometime. So I tune back to RTM, and enjoyed Hasbullah’s commentary.

 In future I hope RTM will make arrangement to send its commentator and technical staff to the match ground to give a real live commentary situation. I noticed RTM has not been using other commentators than Hasbullah for its commentary from the studio booth for quite some time. Is RTM not willing to train new commentators to take over the role? If that is so it is high time RTM give a thought to implement a special programme of spotting new talents and train them in the mould of the retired commentators of old.

When I was heading the sports broadcast we connected with the regional stations and manage to spot some very good hidden talents even in remote Sarawak. All of them were staff of the department and when the promotion list came out they were taken off from the normal broadcasting duties to handle management, and transferred to other stations leaving a void. RTM should study this situation although there is a need for talents in other programmes too.

Hasbullah started as a part-time and came to Kuala Lumpur where he was taken in as a permanent staff but differences in the place he was serving forced him to resign and revert to his previous position as a part time in the sports department till today. Not many have the talent he possesses.

The other network that seems to be concentrating in sports is Astro. It has recruited many new and old talents from RTM and other stations for its Malay sports programme. Astro has got sports programmes running 24 hour a day intermingle with live coverage. I don’t see them having capable commentators like Hasbullah of RTM. Many have reported to me that they at Astro are not doing the real commentating. They were more of analysing a match while doing a live commentary. They tend to be too clever in the rule of the game that many of my friends regarded them as being a referee and a coach – trying to teach the audience the way a game or match should be played.

I got a feeling the commentating staff at Astro Malay language broadcasts was not properly trained and were left to their own device according to their experience. They have the luxury of learning from the many sports channels on their network carrying international and foreign matches. There were various ways of commentating from different country with differing styles. They should take the trouble of studying these.

Even if RTM hasn’t got the luxury of Astro, it is advisable for the concern staff to watch the competitor’s broadcast especially on live commentary. There is so much to learn.

My parting word on this, it is time for RTM to do talent spotting, train the talent the proper way of doing things, and get experience and capable personalities to handle the course in commentating.

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