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By Muhammad Basir Roslan
This article is in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) that falls on April 1. This final of two articles looks at the challenges it faces to stay relevant in its role as the national broadcaster.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Set to celebrate its 75th anniversary on April 1, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) is determined to stay relevant by migrating to the new media.
The national broadcaster aspires to implement its digital transformation agenda via its Broadcasting Department Strategic Plan 2021-2025.
Broadcasting director-general Datuk Ruzain Idris said digital transformation is crucial in view of the changes that have taken place in broadcasting technology, which have compelled broadcasters, including RTM, to adapt to the new paradigm and meet the challenges that transcend international borders.
Admitting that it is not simple to migrate from an analogue broadcasting system to a fully digital one, he said among the major challenges facing RTM is how to continue competing with other media and broadcasting platforms.
“The problem is that we are all targeting the same audience, which is around 32.69 million Malaysians. The more broadcasting stations we have, the smaller our audience will be,” he said, adding that RTM, however, has an edge over others as it is the government’s broadcasting arm and, as such, has a network of close cooperation with various other ministries and agencies.
In its endeavour to go fully digital, cost and infrastructure issues are also a matter of concern.
“As of now, we have the RTMKlik application (a digital media delivery platform) on smartphones which provides access to 26 existing radio and television channels and eight new ones to be added later,” Ruzain said in an interview with Bernama at his office in Angkasapuri here, recently.
Another challenge RTM faces is retraining and reskilling its nearly 4,000-strong workforce to familiarise them with operating the new and more sophisticated equipment.
Pointing to the edge the digital broadcasting system has over the analogue version, he said it offers high-definition video quality and enables old television programmes to be restored and digitalised.
Saifuzzaman Yusop, who is director of the TV Programme Division in the Broadcasting Department, RTM, said the benefits of digital broadcasting or digital terrestrial television can only be fully tapped if the quality of its productions and programmes is also improved.
“As such, the overall image and content of RTM’s TV channels will be rebranded to be more current and on-trend to meet the challenges in the Asian region, as well as all over the world,” he told Bernama.
He said the transformation exercise, through the rebranding of its television channels, is crucial to further empower the government’s broadcasting arm and project it as a credible and trusted source of news and information.
Meanwhile, Finlayson Anak Ludan, who is deputy director of the Interactive Digital Media (MDI) Division, RTM, said the broadcaster’s transition from analogue to digital would not only take a long time but required the firm commitment of all the parties involved.
RTM established the MDI Division in 2006 to monitor and supervise the development of content for digital television broadcasts, hybrid broadcasts (mix of radio and television programmes) and online programmes. The division also looks into the development of HbbTV (hybrid broadcast broadband TV) interactive applications for digital television broadcasts and RTM Online services, as well as interactive content for social media.
“With the transition to the digital platform, we hope to generate innovations to enable Malaysia’s terrestrial digital broadcaster to attain international standards,” Finlayson said, adding that the MDI Division is also planning to turn its New Media, comprising RTMKlik and RTM’s official social media accounts, into its third platform after radio and television.
He said the division has already paved the way towards this end by revamping its content so that it is fresh and meets the aspirations of its current audience.
“With this, the New Media will not only serve as a promotional agent for RTM programmes but also help to create an informed society through its programmes,” he added.
Finlayson also said that with the competition posed by various over-the-top (OTT) streaming applications, RTM’s MDI Division will have to be more aggressive in seeking materials that can attract viewers.
“Among our strategies is providing content and programmes that are exclusively available on RTM’s New Media. We also want to upload our classic programmes that have been given a new lease on life through digitalisation,” he said.
Meanwhile, RTM Sarawak has to face its own set of challenges to relay government information to the more than 2.82 million people in the state who hail from 26 ethnic groups.
State Broadcasting Department director Abdull Hadi Mohd Yusoff said RTM’s radio service still remained the most effective broadcast medium in the state.
“RTM Sarawak’s radio services broadcast in Bahasa Melayu and also in the Iban, Chinese and English languages. Besides the radio station at the state headquarters in Kuching, there are also stations in Sri Aman, Sibu/Kapit, Bintulu, Miri and Limbang that broadcast mainly in Bahasa Melayu and Iban,” he said.
RTM Sarawak has eight radio networks, namely SARAWAKfm, WAIfm (Iban and Bidayuh), REDfm (English and Chinese), SRI AMANfm, SIBUfm, BINTULUfm, MIRIfm and LIMBANGfm.
He said the WAIfm Iban network, for instance, has a segment called JAKO PESAN that was created to enable the Iban communities living in urban areas or in longhouses to convey any news to their family members living elsewhere. Such news usually involves deaths or events scheduled to take place at a longhouse.
Abdull Hadi also said in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, their staff took the initiative to change their production concept from face-to-face recordings to recording and posting its programmes on RTM’s social media platforms.
“Take, for example, SARAWAKfm’s ‘Juh Bermukun’ programme that was held in Miri and uploaded on RTM’s Facebook account in November 2020… it recorded a viewership exceeding 150,000. It was a victory for us because the programme was well-received by the local community,” he said.
He also hoped that the state’s infrastructure and transmission stations would continue to be upgraded to improve the current access rates for radio (98 percent) and television (over 85 percent) broadcasts in an effort to continue providing the best service to the local communities.
Translated by Rema Nambiar