Sunday, August 31, 2008

i remember the Miss Universe Pageant 1987

contestants at Merlion SBC Cameraman on Location

Preparing the Stage at WT Centre

A TV show to remember….. It was held at the World Trade Centre in Singapore in May 1987 produced and beamed via satellite to millions world- wide. Cecilia Bolocco of Chile was crowned Miss Universe 1987 in front of a packed audience.
Singapore Tourist Promotion Board sponsored the event ‘cause they wanted to attract more tourists into Singapore. The then SBC provided technical support in televison production and transmission facilities and production crews. To prepare for this event myself, Suhami Jais, Yeo Juay Thiew the late William Lee and two STPB officers went to Alburqueque New Mexico to understudy the production of Miss USA.
We worked with many professionals of the US TV production industry. Some were from Canada. The executive producer was George Honchar who was also the president. The director was Tony Charmoli. The other executives if I could remember was Sid Smith and Tom Grasso. And the most important person I think who taught our lighting designers how to light for mega production Hollywood –style was Carl Vitelli. Lessons in all the production areas from producing and directing , post production, lighting, camera work, sound recording etc to logistics support were quickly learnt in the three months that led into the mega- show. The technical and productions skills acquired enabled SBC to stage and produced mega-events in subsequent years.
The event was full of excitement both for the workers in the show and Singaporeans in general . We were all pleased with this rare and golden opportunity for us to take part in working for the Miss Universe Pageant 1987.

watch video:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

1971 First time live for N-Day Rally speech -Ananda remembers..

First time live for N-Day Rally speech

I was the producer of the historic 6th National Day Rally speech in 1971, when it went live for the first time.
The usual “drill” on this occasion was as follows. The Prime Minister was met on arrival at the car porch of the National Theatre. The producer followed him to the make-up room for any last minute instructions
On this historic day, I was asked by then PM Lee Kuan Yew what was on local channels from 7.30pm onwards. I told him. Then he asked me an unexpected question: What was on Malaysian channels?.
Fortunately, having worked with him on many such productions, I was prepared. I told him what was on. Then he reached into his pocket and took a cutting of the TV listings to counter-check. That is how prepared you must be when you deal with Mr Lee,
He then asked me if we could go live. I said yes. He told me to make multilingual announcements on both radio and TV by fading all programmes on air to blank. He also told me to make announcements in Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English to ensure the audience at the National Theatre was kept informed.
I rushed to the outside broadcast van parked in the carpark to call my director, the late Mrs Wong-Lee Siok Tin.
“Please don’t ask any questions,” I told her. “PM has instructed that we fade all radio and TV programmes on air to black by making an announcement that we will go to live telecast and broadcast of the PM’s National Day Rally speech at the National Theatre.”
There was gasp at the other end. I told Mrs Wong to go ahead. Ten minutes into the live broadcast , the then Cabinet secretary Mr Wong Chooi Sen, tapped on our van door:
“Hey, Ananda, Dr Goh Keng Swee, the defence minister, wants to know if you are absolutely certain PM instructed you to broadcast live?”
Although I died a thousand deaths at that moment , I shouted a firm”yes”. After the broadcast I rushed back to meet Mr Lee in the make-up room. He asked if the broadcast went live without any technical hitches. I said it went flawlessly. He said good and I lived to tell the tale! –Ananda Perera
(The article appeared in the ST Forum dd 26 August 2008)

Peter HL Lim writing in WeekendToday said "Few, if any,would dispute that the most dramatic of the 43 annual Nationa Day Rally speecheswas the one in 1971, It was the first one telecast live........" read the exciting story of whyMinister Mentor went live in 1971 at

I was then a young technical operator in the studio and occasionally did vision control in the TV OB. I had the opportunity to operate the Auto Cue and related broadcast system for VVIPs recordings. In subsequent years as an engineer-in-charge Studios and Outside Broadcasts I supported Ananda in many of his productions which included the National Day Parade, National Day Message in Television Studio Three and of course the National Rally Speeches at the Kallang Theatre. For such productions we were doubly quick and alert to ensure things go on flawlessly .....

Ananda Perera had a successful and illustrious career with the company and grew from the
ranks and file to become the Director of News.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Occasion to remember.....

After some years the long service award ceremony of the company was back again. On 31 July 2008 MediaCorp held a function at its theatre for 166 staff who had 5, 10,15,20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years service. I was honoured to be among the five who got the 40 years (40.75 to be exact) award as well a few minutes of video clip which was shown in front of a packed audience. My wife and daughter and son-in-law attended. This was the first and last that they would attend one I think. They thought it was a fantastic way of recognizing loyal and dedicated staff . My wife said it was one sure way for the company to win hearts.
The long list of recipients included people that I had worked for many years. Couple of big wigs from general management. Then there were the operations people.. video editors, journalists, engineers and production staff etc. Six artistes received the Artiste Appreciation Award. Among them was Aileen Tan who was of the winners of first star award held in 1988. Because of time constraint only a selected a few were given a chance to speak. I spoke briefly mentioning that I had a successful career, full of excitement on the Hill and it was with a sense of satisfaction that I received the long service certificate from the CEO Mr Lucas Chow. I also said that I stayed in the company for so long because of good people I worked with .....with CEOS that come and go, my bosses and my peers. And most important my staff with me over the years. Nice people. Also I had a passion for technologies excite me and when they could be implemented there was always a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction…Lastly was the recognition for work done. The occasional pat on the back. One must have it or else it would be meaningless to work. I had my fair share of pay rises, bonuses and training both local and overseas…..and what about your most memorable occasions and advice to young engineers? Time did not permit to talk more …in any case they were planning a big party for me (reaching 62 on 26 August 2008) and there would be opportunity to say more…..
The event at the Theatre ended with more photo-taking a big hearty lunch. A lot of networking among staff….another memorable event for staff of MediaCorp. The emotive value of being recognised is a great thing…....

Friday, August 22, 2008

And then there was Mediaworks...

About 8 years ago Mediaworks. owned by SPH and with initial capital of $50m started two free-to-air channels Channel i (English) and Channel U (Chinese) . It was issued a licence by the Government to compete with the dominant broadcaster Mediacorp so as to improve the quality of programming and increase viewers choice. Channel U seemed to fair better than Channel I mainly because most of English programmes were already bought by MediaCorp and Channel U had good Chinese programmes syndicated from Taiwan, China and Hongkong. Channel U also had substantial local productions to attract the Chinese viewers from Channel 8. Both situations increased the costs of operations sky-high. Also because of competition the costs to MediaCorp for programming also went up. As a result both companies bled ( A big gun said both MediaCorp TV and Mediaworks TV are "haemorhaging") After careful consideration both parties decided to close down Mediaworks and let MediaCorp run Channel U. Channel I being not commercially viable went of the air on 1 Jan 2005. By then MediaCorp got bruises all over and its plan for a public listing did not materialise. A new TV holding company was created to operate Channel U, Channel 5, Channel I and TVMobile ..owned jointly by MediaCorp and SPH with SPH having a small stake. The rest of the channels Suria, Central and Channel NewsAsia continued to be 100% owned by MediaCorp.
Among the reasons given for the failure were that the free-to-air market in Singapore was not big enough for competition….and the other reason was the strategic error in programming by Mediaworks….. clashing headon with MediaCorp…some say it should have adopted the strategy of complementary programming and be contented to be second instead of trying too hard to be the first….....