Sunday, February 14, 2010

I remember Cheng Tong Fatt

(Dr Cheng Tong Fatt second from left)

I called him Mr Cheng (not Dr Cheng , a more proper salutation) whenever I met him at the studios on CaldecottHill. I remember him well because he was
‘strongest ‘CEO I ever encountered. He came in before 1980 and prepared us for the corporatisation of the then RTS,officially known as the Department of Broadcasting MInistry of Culture. The Singapore Broadcasting Corporation SBC was formed on 1 Feb 1980. Mr Cheng Tong Fatt was the first chief executive as GM of SBC. The late Mrs Wong-Lee Siok Tin was the first Deputy GM of the Corporation. Later on the Corporation was restructured and Mrs Wong became the GM with Mr Cheng as Deputy Chairman. He remained in this position till early 1988. Mr Cheng was concurrently concurrently the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture. The position of DyChairman was an executive one. I knew him to be a tough-minded leader that brook no nonsense. Being target-orientated he transformed RTS into a company that could meet the challenges of a commercial world. Over the ten years or so there he introduced many firsts to SBC. His greatest achievement was the formation and development of the Chinese Drama unit. I can say sthat without him the Chinese Drama would not have been what it is today. During his tenure, Chinese Drama produced many popular series, such as the Awakening , Samsui Woman etc. Also other departments such as the Current Affairs section blossomed and popular programmes such as Feedback and Friday Background for instance. The biggest success in the Entertainment section was the introduction of night shows outdoors, the first being telecast of the NDP at night in 1986. Other night shows such at City Hall Steps, China Town, Singapore River became a regular evenets during New Years eve and Lunar New Year. And of course the staging of the Miss Universe 1986 – an event which I personally faced many challenges.
I was not with the Management team then during his stay at Caldecott but certainly had encountered with him as the engineer-in-charge of studios and outside broadcasts. He seldom put on a smile and appeared stern and stately all the time. Under him engineers had to really be on full alert because he was the sharpest boss in all areas including the technologies. He would wish for staff to be innovative and adopt a can- do attitude. All staff were toughened by his management style. He was credited with bringing the drama producers from Hongkong and top executives as well to run the Drama unit. The greatest respect for him was that he gave all the executive local producers a chance to take charge first. But none were able. The turnaround came when foreign talents from Hongkong were roped in.
Mr Cheng later on became the Ambassador to China. His assistance was sought again, this time for SBC’s foray into the China market….Without doubt he was one of the top-notched civil servants that helped build Singapore.

I met him about a year ago at a friend's wedding dinner. He was in the pink of health. I asked him what made him look so young for his age. He said "Never Retire!". Here is wishing him many good years of a healthy life.

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