How Malaysians Raised RM300,000 So That RTM Could Air World Cup Matches Live In 1982
Some Malaysians have questioned the Government's decision to air the World Cup live for free on national television this year as the nation is going through serious debt issues
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said that the government has already managed to secure RM15 million in sponsorship and will be working towards securing even more to cover the cost.
Even though many welcomed the move, saying that even those in rural areas can now experience the football excitement, some have also criticised the decision and said that it is a waste of money.
While the Government is footing the bill for World Cup telecasts this time around, Malaysians in 1982 actually came together in a rousing crowdfunding exercise so that everyone could watch the matches
Back then, RTM was unable to fork out the cost in order to screen the World Cup live, but one man's suggestion turned things around.
According to a report by New Straits Times, Malay Mail reader Peter Teo - who went by a pseudonym Soccer Fanatic - called in to the media's hotline to propose a simple solution to RTM's financial conundrum on 14 June 1982.
He suggested that since lack of funds was the main reason RTM was unable to telecast many of the World Cup matches live, it would be good if the television station allowed the public to sponsor their personal money to help as well.
Peter was confident that Malaysian football fans would not have minded contributing a ringgit each to help pay for the telecasts
"After all, there must be millions of soccer fans in the country," he said in an interview with Malay Mail later.
Little did he know, that his simple request would go on to spark a "revolution"
60-year-old Chan, who is also an ardent football fan recalled that, "The then Hotline reporter, Noraini Shariff, who took Peter's call, filed a report that was published the next day under the heading 'How about This?'."
He said that Peter had expressed the frustrations of Malaysian football fans who were hungry for more live telecasts of the World Cup.
Back then, RTM's live telecasts were only limited to the opening match, two semi-finals, and the final.
"As a fan, it was frustrating to have to rely only on the radio or the newspapers for news on the World Cup," said Chan, who was then Malay Mail's entertainment and assistant news editor and had been closely following the World Cup since 1974.
One thing led to the another, and Chan soon found himself meeting the information minister (Datuk Seri) Mohd Adib Adam to ask if he was open to Peter's suggestion
He approached him as he was heading to his car after a meeting and asked him what he thought of the idea.
The minister said, "Yes, RTM will accept public contributions for more live telecasts but some organisations must volunteer to collect the funds".
"The minister's response was front-paged in The Malay Mail the following day. By then, calls had come in from the public in support of Peter's exciting proposal," Chan said.
With approval from the editors, the People's Live Telecast Fund (PLTF) was launched on 19 June.
Just hours after the news published, football fans came not only to The Malay Mail office in Balai Berita, Bangsar, but also to New Straits Times (NST) branch offices nationwide with their donations (Malay Mail was once a part of NST).
PLTF's goal was to raise RM60,000 to pay for one live telecast.
"But any doubts about the viability of the fund were erased as dozens, hundreds, and then thousands came to Balai Berita and our branch offices to contribute. Young and old, male and female, people of all races and professions turned up."
Chan said that even children donated to the fund - one of them was six-year-old Jason Lim Soo Boon, who turned up with his piggy bank and donated his savings of RM12.80!
Donations kept pouring in all day as celebrities and even Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad contributed to the fund!
"By the end of each day, the money collected was sent to our accounts department. I had also filed the daily reports and the names of every donor, and the amount donated was published in the next day's papers," said Chan.
"The PLTF collection trebled to RM730 on Sunday (20 June), jumped to RM5,000 on Monday, quadrupled to RM20,000 on Tuesday, almost doubled to RM40,000 on Wednesday, and shot past the target to RM66,116.45 on Thursday," said Chan.
"As we now had the funds for one live telecast, we threw a challenge to the public to keep the contributions coming so that we could have two or even more live telecasts."
The public rose up to the challenge and with some donations from larger companies, the total amount collected was RM90,000!
But as the amount was not enough to cover all three matches, Chan said RTM topped up the fund with a contribution of RM33,000.
He reminisced that the proudest moment for Malaysians was when the words 'DiTaja Oleh Rakyat Malaysia' (sponsored by the people of Malaysia) beamed across the television sets and were announced each time the matches were telecasted live
"In subsequent weeks, the PLTF reached an astounding RM300,000, which was enough to pay for a fourth match as well as a fifth live telecast after the World Cup, which was the FIFA World All-Star charity match on 7 August."
What started as one man's simple request brought about the nation's support and generosity in a matter of weeks.
"Never before had I seen Malaysians coming together for a cause like this. It was a proud moment not just for us at The Malay Mail but also for all Malaysians. It was a unique event but one that helped accomplish a mission and influence the corporate sector to come in as sponsors for future live or delayed telecasts of the World Cup from 1986 onwards."
It's always inspiring to see Malaysians coming together to achieve a common goal, such as in donating to help alleviate the nation's debt:
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