Mr Robert Chua
Singapore born Robert Chua has spent a lifetime
in television. After leaving a TV Production job in
Singapore, he helped to launch Hong Kong's TVB in 1967,
becoming the station's youngest executive.
years ago, he started his own all-Mandarin China
Entertainment Television Broadcast. It ran into
financial trouble after a deal with a consortium of five
Chinese partners fell through.
Today, after surviving emergency brain surgery
last year, Chua is in discussion with investment
partners to save his ailing channel and is gearing up to
get into business on the internet.
Listen in as Zahara Lateef talks to the media
This is an edited transcript of the full
Robert Chua, welcome to Inconversation.
Your TV station CETV nearly went bust in 1998
as a result of failed talks on investment with
Chinese companies. What happened? Did
misread the situation?
really because I did not realise that the companies we
signed with didn't have the money to go along with it.
There are 5 companies from China headed by a Beijing
company. They wanted to sign with us and then try to
raise money. So eventually because they couldn't get the
money they couldn't honour the contract.
Has that changed your working relationship
the Chinese government?
at all. I'm still working very well with them. We're
still have a good relationship with Mainland China with
various TV stations and various ministries.
Now, what about your working relationship
with Chinese companies? Has that changed your view on,
say, Quanxi perhaps?
changed a lot. I realised that the Quanxi now in China
is more than having money. So if given a choice between
2 friends - one with the reputation and someone they
respect, with a good Quanxi, and a new friend comes
along with Quanxi but with lots of money - unfortunately
they usually win out. Something that I'm really
is the reality of most situations in China now unlike 20
years ago when I first started at China. Quanxi was
very, very important. They honour the old friendship and
even when money comes along they will honour true
friendship first rather than just having money to sort
of decide on issues.
Only months after that you were awarded
landing rights in Kwantung and also in Hong Kong. Now,
how has that sense of bitterness and disappointment
That's only after nearly one year - one complete
year of lobbying and talking. And at the end of the day,
our hard work and what we are - are proofs to the
Chinese government that all the overseas and Mainland
Chinese supporters are supporting us.
Well since that incident, what is the fate
of your company right now?
Right now we're moving along. It's been a little
over 2 years since we were in trouble. We're now holding
advanced stage talks with big international companies
and we're very confident of a closer very soon. It will
be very good for us because they have the technical and
professional support to help put CETV where it should
be. And I will continue to concentrate on the
programming aspect of the channel.
But should talks break down what, will you
do? Would you close the station?
I can't go on now I'm sure. It takes too much money to
get it going. I need a partner with the experience, the
expertise, the resources ?deep pockets to do it which I
do not have. If talks fail I would definitely not
hesitate to close it.
But how would you feel since you
I will feel very sad because
frankly speaking the earlier part of the first year was
terrible. That's why I had to go for brain surgery.
That's the cause of that, the stress that I've got which
is tremendous. And during that year I appeared on TV a
couple of times at least.
When I appeared on TV on one
occasion, I was close to tears but I was holding them
back. I was really, really touched and very sad for what
was going to happen. It could have been closed in a
matter of days until somebody came in with the money.
The viewers called up with support; the viewers were in
You know I feel very sad but
I think as time goes by one has to accept it. Now, after
nearly more than 2 years, I think if we close I still
will feel very sad. But I would not be visibly that
emotional. But I think a lot of the audience too will be
very sad by this because if the station closes it's not
me who loses out but the viewers that have been
following our station very closely. Because those people
watching our station are more refined, or more educated,
who go for something good.
Just imagine the talk show at
night - the 2 Hours Talk Show. It can be very boring if
you just see 2 or 3 persons talking with phone-ins. But
they love it because it's part of their life. They feel
as if they talk to part of the family and those people
followed us for a long time. So it will be a loss for
everybody, not myself alone.