Thursday, April 30, 2009

i remember the Quests

The Quest was a pop band popular during the 60s and I believe one of the successful pop music group in the region that did Singapore proud. It started at Queenstown Secondary Technical School –the school that I attended from 1959 -1963. They used to perform at the school’s concerts which made the principal, the teachers and students proud ..more so when they became popular.
Jap Chong (rhythm) and Raymond Leong (lead) both attended Queenstown during the 1960s. They named the band after the school’s name. Their original songs Shanty and Gallopin’ won them a EMI Records contract in 1964. In 1963 they were the first local band to play electric instruments on Radio Television’s talentine in 1964. Henceforth they started performing in the television studios at Caldecott Hill. They were supporting popular artists like Rita Chao and Sakura Teng.
After my college and when I was posted as technical operator in the television studios in the late 60s, I remember lighting and vision control the group in television studio one for a number of occasions. They appeared on many radio shows as well. The band disbanded in 1971.

For more information please check out the following links:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Day MM cried

The Day MM cried
Many Singaporeans remember this historic moment. This story is told umpteenth times as part of history lessons of Singapore in schools and over the internet.( Just google search “Lee Kuan Yew cried” ) MM cried when he had to announce that Singapore was going to be separated from Malaysia. It happened on 9 August 1965 at a TV Press conference in the black and white television studio at the old broadcasting centre, Caldecott Hill. Two technical operators of the TV equipment (Lim Sho Shiaw and Goh Kee Chai)witnessed the moment and when I talked to them last week, they said they were shocked to watch him cry in the studio in front of cameras.
Chandra Mohan a young producer then producing this event said he was stunned for a moment.And against all the rules of production that such shots of him should be avoided he instructed the cameramen to dolly in to get a close- up of him . This footage proved to one of the most popular in the history of local media. It was a moment only television was capable of capturing. The TV camera that caught the emotion of this historic moment is shown elsewhere on this blog. The producer said he could feel the anguish and pain from the TV monitors in the production room and for him and the TV crew this was to have lasting impression that could never be forgotten.
Many watched him on national TV when emotionally MM Lee Kuan Yew said “For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories.’And this incident became a pivotal point of Singapore’s history….the day Singapore entered the brave new world….I joined the department of broadcasting two years later. When the separation was announced I heard MM on radio whilst having coffee in a sarabat stall along Prince Edward Road, after classes at the Singapore Polytechnic nearby.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Road to Digital TV - a satisfying experience

Road to Digital TV – a most satisfying experience

I think it was around February of 1998 that the company received
word from the authority that Singapore had to adopt a digital TV
standard soon as the world was already digitising. There were 3 world standards then - DVB from Europe, ISDB from Japan and ATSC from USA. The Singapore Broadcasting Authority then wanted a test of the three standards as Singapore’s high-rise buildings of residential houses is almost unique and could pose a problem for digital television reception. Lee Cheok Yew who was then the CEO got me to get quotations for a test and an evaluation of the three systems. The quote came to a $1m dollars from a reputable company. The reply from him was “Shit !#@* much... do it ourselves.. Tay you get your engineers to test it! And report” This assignment turned out
to be one of my most satisfying in my career. I took up the challenge.

I visited the three standard bodies in Tokyo, Geneva and Washington to get the experts to come to Singapore to test the three standards. We set up a national committee (chaired by me) and representatives from the industry and institutions of higher learning. The experts and our local engineers took 3 months all over the island to do the field tests. The result led to the adoption of the European DVB standard mainly because of its ability to
to offer mobile services and acceptable signal ruggedness. (I made a presentation to George Yeo who was MITA's minister then, he approved and officially announced the DVB standard for Singapore) Subsequently the company was given licences to operate digital services for channel5, 8 and ChannelNewsAsia as well a TV Mobile service. The TV Mobile service on the buses was the world’s first for Singapore and in a way established the island as one of the leading test beds for digital television services. It was one of the most successful project the company engineers had ever done.(we saved the company $1m bonus and i dont remember us getting a bonus!!Ha Ha!)
In the 2000-2003 we had many visitors from the USA, China, Russia, India, Taiwan..etc to study the system in Singapore. Beijing and Shanghai quickly adopted tvmobile services. Taiwan too introduced mobile TV in the buses. These services proved to be commercially very successful there. But for Singapore, because of its size, it was an upheld task trying to make money from TV services in moving vehicles.
Before long the idea of trying to get the countries in this region to adopt the same standard was mooted. I was given the task together with the regulator and our friends in RTB to help convince the ASEAN countries to adopt the same standard. And we travelled to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Phillipines to sell the idea of a common digital TV standard for the region. Mainly for the reason of economies of scale and mutual benefits in digital services. This effort paid off when the ASEAN Ministers for Responsible for Information finally approved the adoption of the European DVB standard for digital television in ASEAN region. This effort was one of the most challenging and satisfying experience with my friend Mr Lim Chin Siang of MDA and Haji Ibrahim of RTB. 10-20 years down the road when DTV is prevalent in all the countries in this region we would remain the unsung heroes.. on the road to digital television.

Comments are welcomed from the industry especially those who were involved in the test for a national DTV standard for Singapore. Email:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SMART Alliance

Here is a press release by MediaCorp
ASEAN broadcasters forge SMART Alliance
Singapore, 24 March 2009 – A group of broadcasters has announced its commitment to form an alliance, called SMART Alliance, which hopes to create and deliver commercial benefits to its members.The six founding members – ABS-CBN (Philippines), BBTV (Thailand), International Media Corporation (Vietnam), Media Nusantara Citra (Indonesia), Media Prima (Malaysia) and MediaCorp (Singapore) – met at an inaugural meeting on 24 March 2009 in Singapore and inked a Memorandum Of Understanding pledging to work on 3 specific areas: (1) Content (2) Selling and Marketing (3) Technology.As a region, ASEAN alone presents a combined market size of more than half a billion eyeballs and a growing middle-class population with increasingly substantial spending powers. The alliance is well positioned to exploit economies of scale both as a supplier of coveted content as well as a buyer of technology and equipment. For advertisers and clients, the alliance grouping will be able to deliver marketing and promotional solutions on a regional platform.Mr Lucas Chow, MediaCorp CEO and Chairman of SMART Alliance Steering Committee says, “As a community of regional media companies, we believe there is scope for an alliance that is established and driven purely by commercial considerations and goals. Our hope is that we will be the Alliance of Choice of all media companies in the Asia Pacific within the next 3 years or so”.
Issued by Corporate Communications, MediaCorp
For more information, please contact:Clarence PongAssistant Vice President Corporate CommunicationsMediaCorp Pte LtdTel : (65) 6350 3343Fax : (65) 6251 5628E-mail :
The operation and management of SMART Alliance is directed by a Steering Committee consisting of:Chairman - Mr Lucas Chow, CEO, MediaCorp
MembersABS-CBN - Mr Eugenio L Lopez III, CEO
BBTV - Mr Khun Veraphan, Director
IMC - Mr Tim Lam, CEO
Media Prima - Mr Abdul Rahman Ahmad, CEO
MNC - Mr Hary Tanoesoedibjo, Group CEO
MediaCorp - Mr Chang Long Jong, Deputy CEO

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thomson Foundation TV College, Glasgow

Thomson Foundation TV College

I remember whist installing some equipment in a make-shift colour OB Van in 1974 , George Ang the then Chief Engineer of the Department of Broadcasting informed me that I had been nominated to attend a four-month course in Colour TV Engineering in Scotland. Subsequently I was told by my immdiate boss Mr Lam that WY Chan who was my senior and earmarked to go had tendered his resignation to migrate to Australia. I was happy to attend the course, being the first out of the country for me and to learn things which proved to be very useful in my later career. The course was conducted at the Thomson Foundation TV College in Newton Mearns,Glasgow Scotland ( The College was started by Lord Thomson of the Fleet)
The College held residential training courses in television production and engineering for people who were already employed in stations in developing countries. They also sent lecturers to train staff in TV stations in countries such as India, Zimbabwe, Bahrain and China. It was an interesting place to work, meeting people from all over the world and learning a little about the world of broadcasting. So for four plus months stayed in the college with 20 other students who were full time broadcaters. They came from all over viz Brazil, Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Turkey, England, Scotland. It was months of intensive learning of colour television engineering and operation techniques.
The four-month study included subjects like fundamentals of colour television, transmitter technicques, camera and studio lighting operations, videotape operations and some management principles of broadcasting stations.

During the week-ends and short holidays the students travelled to places north of the River Cyde eg Inverness, Loch Tay, Loch Ness (The Loch Ness monster did not appear that day when we were there) and visited Edinburgh castle as well. It was during these travels that I learnt a lot about the Scottish people...and the fact that the Scots and English could not get along... would poke at one another when occasions arose..and I also learnt to like bagpipes and Scottish songs. Loch Lomond and the Skye Boat are my two favourites.
As mentioned earlier the knowledge and skills learnt gave me more opportunities at the then Radio and TV Singapore Engineering Division. After the training I was posted to train engineering staff at the Telecentre Centre, 1 Hill crest Road and later promoted to Head of Broadcasting Training(About Telecentre the joint training school for the then Singapore Telephone Board , Telecommunications Department and Broadcasting Department..that is another story). Later I was promoted to Head of Training there . And after few years there I subsequently returned to Caldecott Hill to be engineer-in-charge of television studios………

The above pictures were taken (around Dec 1974) one at the school in Glasgow and the other in London with Lord Thomson.
If you recognize yourself in the pictures please email me and tell us more about yourself since then (I guess most will be in the age group 60- 80 now) email:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

i remember Foong Choon Hon

i remember Foong Choon Hon
Mr Foong Choon Hon Hon one of Caldecott Hill Old Timers died suddenly on 30 Mar 2009. He was a retired broadcaster, TV Producer and journalist. At the age of 80 he was still on Radio 95.8 current affairs programmes. I met him only recently at Caldecott Hill canteen and he appeared to very healthy. I am shocked to hear that he has passed away.
He retired from the company in 1984 after spending time in the current affairs department and later on help to establish the local Chinese drama unit.
I remember him to be a soft-spoken cheerful person. In 60s and 70s I used to meet him at television studio 3 where the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yews recording of National Speech was done. I was then operating the auto-cue machine. His advice was sought to make PM’s script easier to be be understood by heartlanders of Singapore. I understand he was also a tutor for Mr Lee Kuan Yew when the then PM was mastering Mandarin.
His last memorable project was to convert the 160-year old villa at Balestier Road into the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall together with another Caldecott Hill Old-Timer Mr Mun Chor Seng. For this he earned the respect of the Chinese community.
I knew him to be a humble, simple person well-respected by his peers and staff …and salute him for his dedication and work till the last hour of his departure. His departure is a loss to the media industry and community.