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75 Years On, RTM Soldiers On To Stay Relevant

30/03/2021 08:16 PM

By Muhammad Basir Roslan

This article is in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) that falls on April 1. This first of two articles zooms in on the national broadcaster’s success and achievements.

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – With a broadcasting history that spans over seven decades, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) has rightfully become the household word when it comes to informing, educating and entertaining the public, as well as shaping the thinking of Malaysians.

And, before the advent of digital and pay-TV operators, it was terrestrial free-to-air stations in the likes of RTM that enabled Malaysians to watch major local and international sporting events from the comfort of their living rooms.

RTM provided live coverage of the 1998 Commonwealth Games hosted by Malaysia.

Having won the trust of international media organisations, RTM often gets the right to be official broadcaster for prestigious events such as the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association meeting in 1996, the 1998 Commonwealth Games, 2002 Hockey World Cup, 2007 World Badminton Championship, 2017 SEA Games and the latest, 2021 All England Badminton Championships.

RTM has also in the past led three international organisations, namely Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and Public Broadcasters International. 

Proof of the state broadcaster’s equal standing with global industry players can be seen in its collaborations in productions and training with foreign media organisations such as BBC (United Kingdom), NHK (Japan), KBS (South Korea), Media Corporation (Singapore) and ASEAN media outlets.

RTM is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) and Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD). 



Datuk Ruzain Idris. --fotoBERNAMA (2021) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

RTM, according to Broadcasting director-general Datuk Ruzain Idris, owes its success to years of blood, sweat and tears, as well as the sacrifices, of its staff who tirelessly strived to provide the best they can, be it television or radio productions.

He said its success has been steered by the Broadcasting Department Strategic Plan 2016-2020. This will be followed by the Strategic Plan 2021-2025 which is currently being given the final touches before it is implemented.

He said the plan focuses on RTM’s transformation agenda and its transition from analogue to the digital system that incorporates holistic measures based on the needs and requirements of its audience and listeners.

“Whether we like it or not, we have to transform our broadcasting system to stay relevant as the government’s main broadcaster. Previously it did not even cross our mind that there would be such a thing called new media but now it is a reality and has become the people’s first choice,” he told Bernama in an interview at his office in Angkasapuri here, recently.

Based on a survey by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in November 2019, RTM was found to be the most trusted media organisation in Malaysia.

RTM technical staff at work during the coverage of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Putrajaya.

Ruzain credits RTM’s success to, among others, its dedicated staff who are focused on imparting government information and holding firm to the principle that all news reports released by the broadcaster are credible.      

“RTM also has a network of close cooperation with various ministries and government agencies, hence we have the advantage of sourcing accurate information from them all,” he said.

RTM staff also often get invited to share their opinions and ideas in production workshops, both in Malaysia and overseas, he said, adding that their vast experience in broadcasting is the main factor for them to be invited to be speakers and referred to by their peers from other media organisations.



RTM is also well-known for its talent quests and has the distinction of discovering artistes who went on to make a name for themselves in the local entertainment industry.  

Among its earliest shows was Bintang TV RTM that was aired in 1959 (the programme was initially known as Bintang Radio) where the contestants sang mainly traditional asli and keroncong numbers.

“In 1964, Bintang Radio started airing on TV. Besides that, TV Malaya also started looking for new talents for its Bakat TV competition. The response to Bakat TV had been overwhelming to the extent of it earning a place in the Malaysia Book of Records as the nation’s music industry’s longest-lasting singing contest,” said Ruzain.

Bintang RTM, meanwhile, emerged in 1973 following the “merger” of the Bakat Radio and Bakat TV programmes. The final round of the first Bintang TV show was aired on Feb 26, 1974, and it went on to become an annual affair.

“Bintang TV produced many big names… the late Datuk Sudirman Arshad, Datuk Jamal Abdillah, Rohana Jalil, Ramlah Ram and even Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin,” he added.

Datuk Mokhzani Ismail.

Meanwhile, RTM music director, as well as eminent music conductor and composer, Datuk Mokhzani Ismail told Bernama he is proud to have served the state broadcaster for nearly 30 years.  

The Perlis-born Mokhzani did RTM, and in fact, the whole nation, proud when he was chosen to lead the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) for renowned American composer and trumpeter Chris Botti in 2011.

“It’s here (RTM) where I learned to ‘fall and rise’ in the music industry after obtaining my degree at the Berklee College of Music (in Boston in the United States) in 1990,” he said.

In 1993, he was given the responsibility to lead the RTM Orchestra (ORTM) – which celebrates its 60th anniversary on April 1 – for the Senada Seirama concert in Medan, Indonesia. In 1999, he was made RTM music director.  

In 2015, Mokhzani clinched two Malaysian records, one for being the first musician to be appointed ambassador for German piano brand Hagspiel and the second, for being the first pianist to perform live at the Great Wall of China.

His music album “The Great Wall Comes Alive”, produced in 2016, earned him the Icon Brand Leadership award from BrandLaureate in 2017. He also made history when he combined the resources of three orchestras – MPO, National Symphony Orchestra and ORTM – to play the National Day theme song titled “Malaysia Prihatin” composed by him.

Datuk Harjit Singh Hullon (left) and the late Farit Ismeth Emir.

Other icons produced by RTM include news readers Datuk Harjit Singh Hullon and the late Farit Ismeth Emir, and TV producer Suhaimi Jamalim.  



Meanwhile, on RTM’s plans for the coming decade, Ruzain said the main thing is, it has to emphasise on staying relevant while, at the same time, continuing to discharge its responsibilities as the official mouthpiece of the government.  

“We admit that many people probably don’t know or have failed to notice the various programmes implemented by the government. This is why we have to take advantage of today’s digital era and keep abreast of the technological transformation in order to keep the people informed on government policies and efforts.  

“We also have to make use of social media platforms like Facebook to get feedback from users, including through the complaints channelled to the digital complaints box for the purpose of improving our programme content so that they are more creative and meet the aspirations of the people,” he said, adding that RTM plans to create a special sports TV channel, as well as a new channel, TV6, to air classic films and programmes that have been preserved and digitalised.   





Wisma Angkasapuri, Kuala Lumpur.

RTM has its beginnings as a radio station that was temporarily located at the Federal Building in the early 1950s before it moved to Bukit Putra, better known as Angkasapuri, towards the end of the 1960s,

In 1963, RTM’s first television channel was introduced. It played a part in shaping the people’s thinking and uniting them, in line with the role played by radio to strengthen unity and national integration.

The synergy of the two mediums succeeded in turning RTM into a trusted source of news and information, as well as an avenue to unearth fresh talent in the nation’s creative industry.

For its audience, RTM’s transition from the black-and-white TV era to colour TV in 1978 helped to add more value to its programmes.

On May 7, 1979, RTM launched its second channel to provide viewers with more choice.

Standing on a par with regional broadcasters, RTM has resolved to sustain its excellent performance through the transformation of minds and skills in preparation for the competition in the international broadcasting arena.


Translated by Rema Nambiar






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