The Radio Television Brunei (RTB) News Alumni organised a Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering recently. Among the attendees were RTB luminaries and pioneers of local television and radio news under the tutelage of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) professionals in 1970s or even earlier, during the days of the Broadcasting and Information Department in the 1960s.
The Bulletin met with some alumni who are familiar faces to RTB viewers in the 1980s.
Hajah Zainab worked for RTB from September 1960 until her retirement in 1995. Her work experience ranged from being a news presenter to radio deejay and TV producer.
She said her responsibilities were challenging but as a producer of women’s programmes, she had the opportunity to meet women from all walks of life in different locations to find interesting materials for her segment.
Hajah Zainab noted that the RTB of today is very different from the 70s – when it began its television services on March 1, 1975 – 18 years after Radio Brunei made its first broadcast.
She said with rapid transformation in digitalisation and adoption of new technology, RTB has advanced a great deal and was keeping pace with current viewers’ needs.
Meanwhile, Zainal bin Tinggal began his career as a news translator for the Broadcasting and Information Department in October 1972 and left in 1992 as the head of news.
He said he wasn’t into journalism and only treated it as a job. It was only when he read the 5.30pm Radio Brunei news for the first time that he experienced a sense of pride that motivated him to commit to the craft. Zainal said it was a rough start, with a painfully steep learning curve, when there were few resources to better understand the world of journalism. It was only in 1979 when he was sent for training at the BBC in London, United Kingdom (UK) that he truly grasped what it meant to be a journalist.
He noted that getting resources was a challenge as he had to rely on books, journals and magazines for reference. He said they were not cheap, and he had to spend his own money. He justified the expenses as necessary as a journalist should write a story or attend an event – big or small – with knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Another challenge was logistics, he said, as the news tele-printer was at Bukit Berita in Berangan and printouts had to be collected and brought to the newsroom. Also, in the early television news days, films had to be air-freighted from London and news would be broadcast two to three days later.
Zainal said RTB has made great strides over the decades with the turning point during the arrival of professionals from the BBC to help set up and run the country’s television station.
They also rejuvenated the radio services with their expertise as well as revamped the work culture by focussing on professionalism.
He said modern technology has changed the industry in terms of audience and the means to reach them as the transmission of information is instantaneous.
The Bulletin also had a chance to speak with another TV personality, Hajah Manah, the first female reporter at RTB. She joined the news team headed by Brian Collins in January 1978, and was made a full-time staff in October 1978. By 1981, she had moved up the ranks to being an assistant news editor, scripting and editing news for the radio.
Being bilingual, Hajah Manah enjoyed the task of news writing and translating both local and foreign news. Not long after, she was doing it for television too. When she was promoted to news editor, the task became more challenging as she was selected for overseas courses and news coverage.
Her experience included news coverage on government-based interests such as ASEAN meetings, the United Nations and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Several years later, she was promoted to senior news editor.
While the hours were long, her passion meant she never felt burdened by her chosen career.
She learnt a lot from her meetings and discussions with people from other sections, and even junior staff. Her final years with the News Centre involved assisting the management with news production and staff.
She said the key to her success was ensuring perfection, accuracy and punctuality.
Another familiar name is Haji Johari bin Haji Achee, who joined RTB in 1975 as an assistant reporter.
He said he began under the tutelage of head of news seconded by the BBC and quickly rose to being an editor.
Haji Johari had a three-year break from RTB when he was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1989 and posted to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia from December 1989 until 1992.
He then returned to the newsroom as head of news and current affairs. In 1994, he pursued his Master’s degree in journalism in the UK before resuming his career at RTB.
Haji Johari said a thriving media helps cultivate an informed society by disseminating facts.
He however cautioned that gaps in the media may be filled with negativity, adding that the media’s current challenge is to stay relevant. To him, it is all about ‘content, content and content’.
RTB is celebrating its 66th anniversary this year with Radio Brunei making its first broadcast on May 2, 1957, and television services on March 1, 1975.