Media Conference Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Parliament on Wednesday, 3rd December 2008:

Question to Information Ministry  

1) Is RTM halving airtime for Mandarin news programme?

I call on Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Minister of Information, to clarify whether airtime for Mandarin news would be halved in RTM’s “rebranding exercise”?

Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek confirmed in Parliament on 18th November 2008 while answering oral question that RTM is undergoing a rebranding exercise which will be revealed on 1st January 2009.

I have received credible information, subject to clarification by the Minister, that the weekly airtime of Mandarin news and information will be reduced from the current 8 hours and 25 minutes to 4 and half hour from 1st January.

Currently, Mandarin news and information is broadcasted in three slots daily at 12 noon for half an hour (Mandarin Tengahari), a five-minute Galeri Perdana Mandarin at 7.55p.m., and Warta Mandarin at 8p.m. for half an hour. In addition, there is a talk show programme aired on Sunday evening.

It was rumoured that the rebranding exercise will reschedule evening Mandarin news from the 8p.m. prime time slot to 11p.m., and the mid-day news and Galeri Perdana Mandarin cease to exist.

I was also told, subject to clarification by the Minister, that the news in various Chinese dialects on the RTM’s radio channel will cease to exist from January 2009.

It is the obligation of the Information Minister to clarify on this matter.

2) Did the Minister mislead Parliament on What Say You?

Mandarin Talkshow programme “What Say You”, aired on Sunday evening, was axed in October immediately after DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok appeared as a guest.

Minister of Information Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek told Dewan Rakyat on 3 November 2008 that

“Kalau dikatakan bahawa What Say You adalah program yang terlalu hebat, kalau dilihat dari segi ranking di kalangan program-program yang disebutkan FTA dengan izin free to air program bagi seluruh TV di negara kita, program yang percuma yang tidak berbayar, kalau mengikut ranking What Say You dia duduk di bawah di dalam tangga yang ke-337. Ertinya rankingnya adalah sangat rendah sekali. Ini dikeluarkan oleh ACNielsen sebuah syarikat bebas yang membuat ratingnya iaitu hanya sekitar 180 ribu, 190 ribu penonton.

“Pada waktu jam 7:00 waktu prime time, saya rasa itu adalah merupakan satu ranking ataupun rating yang rendah sekali dan kita sia-siakan wang rakyat pada waktu yang mahal nilainya sedangkan penontonnya rendah. Sedangkan kalau siaran langsung RTM di waktu pagi 10.00 selalounya yang tingginya kartun sahaja tetapi program serious tidak tinggi dari segi ratingnya. Sebab selalunya sekitar jam 10.00 itu sekitar 80 ribu, 90 ribu, tetapi program siaran langsung RTM sudah meningkat kira-kira 200 ribu. 180 ribu hingga 230 ribu. Jam 10.00 pun lebih tinggi daripada What Say You.

I have been exposed to information that either the Minister had misled the Dewan or he was misled by his official. Whichever way the excuse (low rating) he gave to Parliament on 3 November 2008 for axing What Say You was inaccurate.

First, of the 34 episodes from March 2008 to 26 October (the final episode featuring Teresa Kok), 14 episodes attracted more than 200,000 viewers.

Second, I urge the Minister to use the opportunity of the debate on the budget of Information Ministry to disclose the rating by ACNeilsen for Selamat Pagi Malaysia, Generasi Y, Info Sukan, Bisnes Malaysia, ISU, Persepsi, Bersama Menteri, Diskusi and Motivation on 2.

I was made to understand that the above talk show programmes have either comparable rating or less than that of What Say You. If What Say You was axed due to low rating, does that mean that all talkshow programme on RTM should all be terminated?

Instead of skirting around issues and hiding behind false information, the Ministry should just admit that What Say You was terminated due to political interference and apologise for that. 

* Liew Chin Tong, MP for Bukit Bendera