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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.

Five 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 entrepreneur.

Editor's Note:
This is an edited transcript of the full interview.

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
you misread the situation?

Not 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 with
the Chinese government?

Not 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?

It's 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 disappointed.

This 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 changed?

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?

Yes. 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 started it?

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 tears.

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.







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