In April I wrote a posting called 'A short history of RTM and private production companies.' It received quite a number of responses, either posted as a comment, through phone, sms and even face-to-face.
But a couple of nights ago, I received an SMS from an old friend. And I was quite surprised to say the least about what he sent. It was in response to this posting I made.
He is Lim Beng Teck or LBT, owner of Vision Plus and Double Vision. If you are in the TV industry, you would know who he is and what his company does. When Double Vision started at the beginning of the 90s, I was part of it. I left in 94.
Now, I replied to his text that I will be posting his message to me on my blog, and since he did not insist otherwise, this is his SMS to me verbatim:
"Read yr blog...I only hv 2 commnts 2 make: 1) Its sad dat evn aft almost 30yrs in d biz, U still feel u hv 2 rely on using d racial card 2 get ahead: n 2) Pls get ur facts right. Fyi we (as both Vision Plus n Double Vision) hv nt had a deal w RTM 4 well ovr 2yrs now. Do u see us screaming discriminatn..or is dat only a Bumi privilege? N wat non-Malay dominance r us talking abt when ppl getting '000s of hrs w RTM r all Malay-owned companies..or r u implying dat all d Gemma;s n Nafalia's n Tas' r Chinese controlled? Come on D...I wd like 2 believe dat u r much better den dat...u don't nid 2 rely on pref policies 2 get ahead. By all means, do crusade against corruptn. But lets stop all dis cryng racial shit or we cn nvr move on as a 'one' nation,"
I am really not sure what LBT was ranting about, but you can read the original posting and then compare it to his message to me. Anyway, most of my friends know that I sometimes prefer to look at things in a light-hearted way, so maybe because I still consider LBT a friend, I should approach his comments as such.
So, he begins, with "I hv only 2 comments 2 make...hmmm seemed more than that BT. I counted at least 5." :)
Now let me look at the excerpt in my post that mentioned Vision Plus.
"Currently, the biggest distribution companies in the country are Juita Viden and Vision Plus (both non-Malay controlled companies). With the current hours awarded to them, the lucky three new companies, are trying to outsell these two giants.
Vision Plus basically has given up the ‘battle’ to sell their best programmes to RTM because of the ‘difficulty’. They have built a better relationship with TV3, they sell their best titles to that station.
Vision Plus is also a regional player selling programmes to Indonesia, Thailand, Hongkong, Japan and Singapore.
Vision Plus represents some of the top TV principals or producers from the West. There is also a likelihood that these ‘approved’ companies by RTM are actually buying stuff from these two giants and resell the packages to RTM at a hefty price hike."
Did I get my facts wrong? In fact, I said VP has given up the battle to sell their programmes to RTM. I never said VP or DV had any hours from RTM. Maybe you didn't understand the first paragraph when I said: "With the current hours awarded to them, the lucky three new companies, are trying to outsell these two new companies." Them in this sentence does not refer to you. It refers to the three new companies that are hogging the hours in RTM, and you know who they are. Am not sure why you mentioned Nafalia because I didn't.
And you say you haven't had any business with RTM for over two years. LBT, because you said this, then I have to say "I beg to differ", and if you say why, let me just mention one word "Creation". So let's not go down that road.
And you asked me if I am insinuating that Gemma and TAS are controlled by the Chinese? Did I say that at all? Did I even mention who the three lucky companies are who received the thousands of hours on RTM? You seem to assume that these are two (Nafalia is of course not one of them) of the three companies I meant. Interesting isn't it?
As for me playing the racial card..I think I am not wrong in trying to safeguard whatever rights I have accorded to me under the constitution. Claiming my rights as a Bumiputra and as a Malay does not make me a racist. But this so-called privilege does not guarantee any Malay economic or financial security and does not make them better than anyone else in the country. Poverty amongst the Malays is still high even with the so-called privileges you guys seem so determined to eradicate. And you of all people should know that I am far from being a racist BT. My business partners are non-Malays, amongst (if not most of ) my close friends are non-Malays. My staffing is also equally balanced. So, let me ask you this, how many Malays are working in VP? or DV compared to non-Malays? How many of them hold executive positions? Now you tell me who is more of a racist? So lets not play fire with fire because I abhor racism.
In all my proposals to RTM, TV3 or Astro, I believe no one from this three stations, look at me as a Malay or as a Bumiputra producer. They only look at my proposals. However, if it is part of RTM's policy that I have to declare that my company is a Bumiputra-owned company, does that make me a racist? At the end of the day, it is the quality of the proposal and the finished product that is accepted by RTM. In fact, a Malaysian non-Malay producer is accorded the same opportunities that we have. i dare say that it can also be considered that non-Malay producers have a bigger advantage. Why? We Malay producers are hardly considered or called upon to pitch or produce Mandarin or Tamil programmes. It goes without saying that these ethnic programmes are usually if not always given to non-Malay companies. It does seem that Malay companies are totally incapable of producing non-Malay programmes for TV. Yet, when it comes to Malay languaged programmes, everyone can pitch or tender for it. Don't you think this is a wonderful country?
For your information, whenever anyone asks me about the current 'racial tension' that we have and what's my thoughts about 'Malaysia for Malaysians' or the creation of a Malaysian race...all I say is this: " Do you recognise Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca and the official language of the country. Do you respect that? If they do, and if all Chinese and Indians and other races, use Bahasa Malaysia as their first language fluently like the Indonesians of all races do in Indonesia, then I will support the creation of a Malaysian race. If you claim to be Malaysian, and cannot carry out a simple conversation with me in the national language, who are you to demand for a Malaysian' Malaysia? And furthermore, please read our beloved Prime Minister's blog about One Malaysia before you expound to others what One Malaysia means.
I wholeheartedly support the One Malaysia concept and hope to help the government educate the rakyat on this subject. I especially like his take on 'tolerance and acceptance'. However, on that particular note, I do applaud you for supporting the concept. But do read it, understand it. Don't use it blindly and misunderstand the concept.
Now that being done, I am happy that people of your stature in the industry is reading my blog and responding to it. I need more top echelon representatives of the industry to come out and speak their mind. BT, you have been a market leader for more than 20 years and you should act that way. We need to know what you are thinking and what your plans are to improve the quality of local content internationally. I know instead of pumping your money in Malay movies you have instead made and co-financed movies directed by Jack Neoh in Singapore. Isn't it about time that you put your money where your mouth is and produce a Malaysian movie and not a pseudo Malaysian-Singapore movie. I don't care if it is not a Malay movie, just make it a Malaysian movie - Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Portugese or whatever - as long as it is truly Malaysian - from subject, to funding, to creation to artistes. Unless of course you don't think there is no Malaysian you can trust to direct your movies except a Singaporean by the name of Jack Neoh.
I know you have the means, the networking and financial clout and the balls to do it. We need producers with vision like you, and not like those who produced Kinta 1881 and say that this is a damn good movie and proud to call it Malaysian. Come on BT, you know you can do it. I know you can produce a Malaysian movie better than Kinta 1881. Even our early dramas like Lembah Maut was better than Kinta 1881.
Having said all this, I still hope you consider me a friend. We have been in this industry donkey's years. You have made your millions many times over, and me, I have made a living and brought up a beautiful family with the career I have chosen. We do not need to bicker, we need instead to work together to give back what we have received from this great country we call Malaysia. And bro, I don't mean paying taxes okay?