Selina Chow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2003, 12:00am

To many people, Liberal Party member Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, 58, is a Legislative Councillor and chairman of the Tourism Board. To others, she will always be remembered as Hong Kong's first weather girl, having hit the screens with the territory's first wireless TV station in 1967. She talks to Virginia Maher about the heady days of the late 1960s, and how she took advantage of the leap year of 1968 to propose to her husband.

I was an assistant producer at TVB in Broadcast Drive for the English and Chinese channels as well as doing the weather. I worked so hard that I believe I had a minor nervous breakdown, but there was no standby. One day, I had a sore throat and I was feeling really rotten, and broke down in C. P. Ho's [TVB's first head of news] office. I cried, which was not characteristic of me, and of course - typical male - he was totally helpless. He felt sorry for me and put a youngster, Veronica, on. Poor girl, she didn't have one minute of training when she was forced to go on live. I felt so bad. I felt responsible. Of course, I wasn't responsible. It was sheer, poor management, but I felt so guilty.

The next day, Colin Bednall, who was general manager of TVB, didn't offer any sympathy. He just said: 'You know, you would have got more sympathy if you had fainted.' Today, I thank him for the stance he took then. That episode had a big impact on me. That was a big lesson. I didn't think - I could have gone on. However, the problem was that I had felt sorry for myself. We had to tape five shows over the weekend - two on Saturdays and three on Sundays - and then I had to do the weekend weather, plus every time there was an executive meeting, I was PA and had to attend those meetings as well. As I recall, at one time, I was production assistant on nine half-hour shows a week.

It was ridiculous, because in those days we had very little help. We had to do all the production groundwork and we had to do design. I had to write scripts because my boss couldn't speak Cantonese, I had to write gags, I had to type all the paperwork. It was the life of a slave. Now I look at it in another way. We had a free hand. Although we were all exhausted most of the time, we were allowed to do almost anything we wanted. The flipside of all this was that it was a very happy, creative time, in many ways. And always engaging.

I was employed by Colin Bednall. He said he had exactly the job for me and I thought it was the production assistant job, but he wanted me to do the weather-girl job as well. I never considered going in front of the camera, I simply wanted a production job. In 1967, they started test transmissions at Ocean Terminal, and we all worked very hard, learning as we went - I don't know from whom because no one knew what they were doing. Everybody was excited because it was so new. It was wireless TV. We had a lively team, and you could feel that the whole audience was growing up with you. That was what made it really exciting.

Colin Bednall was so clever. Everybody at the organisation almost idolised him, despite the fact that he was a very tough boss.

Moreover, he had this cultural kind of empathy and knew how to get the community to rally behind the station. He was also a whiz at promotion. The very first newspaper ad we had, just before the test transmissions, was a page with the faces of 33 people - all but four were Chinese. That was the way he established the identity of TVB as a local station.

I left TVB in 1977, when I was running the entire programming section. There had been talk about a seat on the board. The trouble was the higher echelons didn't like the idea of a woman, and so I decided it was time to leave.

On the February 29, 1968, I proposed to Joe over the phone. He was in Britain and I was missing him dreadfully. In those days it was big deal to speak on the phone long-distance and we were both going to cry. He was working as an engineer, waiting to be qualified. It was Leap Year, but I didn't need too much urging. I called him up. He said yes right away. Later I learnt he was afraid I wouldn't ask.

We have two lovely daughters, Chee-may and Chee-kay. There's a five-year gap between them. They're very close and they keep a lot of secrets from me, but I don't mind.

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