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27 April 2009

OPINION : 'PROMOTING RTM IS FIRST PRIORITY'

NST
27/4/2009




Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya, the former chief news editor of Berita Harian, was appointed the Ministry of Information's director-general of broadcasting. Ibrahim talks to ARMAN AHMAD about his new job.

Q: You are the highest ranking civil servant to have been appointed directly. How do you feel about this?
A: It carries a lot of responsibility. I feel like I am an experiment. If this works out, then the government may take in more people straight into higher posts in the civil service. It's important that I do a good job.
Q: Your appointment was met with a protest by RTM staff who sent a memorandum to Cuepacs. Does this worry you?
A: Actually, there was talk that a PTD (administrative and diplomatic) officer would be appointed. I think that is why some people were unhappy when my appointment was announced. I'm not new in RTM. I have served as a media consultant to the ministry since 2005. I know most of the people in RTM. In fact most of them are my friends. They know I have the experience necessary for the job.

Q: Tell us something about your work in the media.
A: I joined Berita Harian in 1983 as a reporter and was the chief news editor when I left in 1996. Then I joined TV3 as deputy manager of the research division. I became manager of news and current affairs before I left in 1999.

Q: What is RTM's biggest challenge now? What does it need to do to be competitive with other TV stations as well as satellite TV.
A: RTM already has good products. What is needed is a lot of promotion and publicity. Currently, this is number three on our list. We have to give it number one priority. There are areas which need to be improved in terms of work attitude. Our staff need to develop themselves. What they can do today they have to do today and not wait until tomorrow to do it.
Q: RTM hires contract staff. Could this lead to problems?
A: Naturally, the contract workers have to work harder due to the nature of their terms. The demands of the newsrooms mean that extra people need to be employed (for a shorter period compared to permanent staff). It also means that we pay them higher salaries.

Q: What would you do to retain good people, especially since some of your good reporters have gone to the private sector.
A: Good people are hard to come by and they are in high demand. Unfortunately, because the salary scheme here is unattractive, we lose some of our news staff to the private sector. I am trying to get the Public Service Department to put reporters on a higher scale to retain them. We have to give the reporters due recognition. When we promote a good reporter, we take him out of his news beat and give him other duties. This shouldn't be the case. He should get a promotion and also be allowed to continue with his work.

Q: How will you address the opposition's complaint that it gets very little coverage on TV and even then it's negative coverage.
A: One of my objectives is to make RTM known as the national television station and not the government's TV station. In terms of fairness, of late we have given a lot of coverage to the opposition. Many of our shows like Dari Parlimen and dialog@1 are fair to both sides.

Q: What is RTM doing to upgrade itself as it prepares to go digital by 2012?
A: We are upgrading our human resources to cater for the increased amount of content. We are also expanding our engineering and technical units to cope with the expansion. We now have two digital channels, and we also have one televised by Astro known as Muzik TV. There are a lot of challenges ahead. When we go digital by 2012, we will have 19 channels. Astro has more than 100 channels.

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