Sunday, October 29, 2006

Em's note: After working on Ms Lok's article last night, I thought I'd also dig out this article on Mr Chan to carry on the series about TVB executives, especially as I hold the utmost admiration for him. Hope you enjoy finding out a bit more about some of the people who make it happen!

[Ming Pao Interview - 22/09/06]

Stephen Chan - Be My Genuine Guest

The selling point of the chat show "Be My Guest" is to make stars and celebrities speak their true feelings. We all know that Stephen Chan Chi Wan's voice has this magnetic attraction. In the 80's, he adopted the stage name of 'Wai Ka Ching' to be a part-time DJ and share his deep feelings and win much acclaim. Today he is no longer Wai Ka Ching and has returned to being Stephen Chan, but still he uses his unrefusable tones, together with his title of TV Executive to attract not only his audience beside the radio, but also superstars and celebrities and even the Chief Executive to share their deepest feelings with him.

For his sounds to carry over from then to now, Stephen Chan has depended on his own genuine emotion.

Accustomed to listening - Everyone is equal

At first, we had chosen a classy location like those on "Be My Guest" for the interview, but Stephen was too busy, so our 'dinner' had to be held in the TVB General Manager's offices instead. There was no view of Victoria Harbour, just the dense greenery of the Tseung Kwan O hills. Under the sunny skies, Stephen still spoke a lot and maintained his smiling conversation style from his hosting. Now and then, his soothing voice will bring memories from his past and captivate you with his words.

Talking is his strength after all.

Whether he was talking as a member of the debating team at university, or negotiating whilst working for the Government Affairs department, or even working as a part-time DJ at RTHK with his emotional voice, Stephen Chan's voice is still irresistable.

Do you still remember his RTHK show 'Every Night'? At the time, a very logical Stephen worked for the government as a government administration officer and then in the evenings, he would use emotional tones of Wai Ka Ching to comfort the souls of many lonely people as he played English Classics and shared some excerpts from his day, such as encounters in the coffee shop or a film he had seen in the cinema. Normally these are mundane incidents, but after the performance by Wai Ka Ching, they gain a poetic aura.

"At that time, e-mail was not popular yet and many listeners liked to send in their problems to me to share them." The success of "Be My Guest" today has been built on many years of listening to other people's thoughts and stories.

"I am a good listener, whether it is with the listeners and friends of the past, or a guest on my show, it is the same."

An elegant voice lingers on the airways, but apart from the people from the radio station, no-one had ever seen this person who seems to have emerged from the pages of Yik Shu's romantic novels. Once, a devoted listener lingered around the doors of the station, but the quick-witted security man noticed Wai Ka Ching and quickly sent him a signal before telling a white lie to the fan that it would be a recorded broadcast today and Wai would not be there. As a result, Wai Ka Ching and his listener came safely within inches of each other without knowing.

"Everyone felt that it was so near and yet so far and it was because of this that we could maintain this strong relationship with the listeners."

The sound of Wai Ka Ching has returned and the memories of the days lying beside the radio seem to return once again. However, reality is reality and today, Stephen Chan has resumed his true identity and even though his name appears in the title of his show [Chinese name of the show is 'Chi Wan Hosts Dinner'], it comes also with the title of TVB General Manager and it carries a much greater weight than part-time RTHK DJ.

If you wanted to count it from a more materialistic view, Stephen Chan has won over Wai Ka Ching by a mile.

Admit your Faults and Bear your Punishment

In 1981, Stephen Chan was successfully selected after fierce competition for the position of Governmental Administration Officer (AO) and he remembers that when he was waiting for the interview with the other candidates at the Civil Service Bureau, an officer from the bureau opened up an application list in front of the group of graduates and read a statement along the lines of: "If you want to be rich, then you do not need to apply for the post of Administration Officer." The person who said this was the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR Mr Donald Tsang.

After rounds of challenges, Stephen finally became part of the elite in the dependent territory government and his first job was actually working for the Civil Service Bureau, not under Mr Tsang, but under Lai Hing Ning. Then he was sent over to the Housing Department under Lam Hung Chun. At the time, he had just graduated and although he had gained a first class honours degree from the prestigious Hong Kong University, when he was faced with so many government documents, meeting minutes and agendas, Stephen was a little uneasy and he recalls this by imitating Mr Lam's words: "Stephen, with writing like this, how can you work in this world?" After this, he worked hard to learn and developed a beautiful hand of English words.

"I often say that if you are wrong, you must admit it and if you are beaten, you must stand still. You have to face up to your errors and failures and overcome fears before you will find improvement." He often encourages the younger generations in this way.

After this, he was sent to England's Oxford University by the government to study a course for Government administrators. During that year, he not only studied administration, but with his great love for speech, he also selected some other courses to follow, such as French, public speaking and linguistics. "At the time, I was based at the London offices and during my vacations, they would arrange for us to go and visit the United Nations and the financial institutions in Switzerland and London and this was a great experience for me." His voice is filled with excitement and passion as though he has momentarily returned to his youth.

Stephen Chan thanks Wai Ka Ching

After returning to Hong Kong, Stephen moved around in various governmental positions as well as taking a part-time DJ role at RTHK. When he left the civil service, he was working in the Film, Television and Entertainment Regulatory Department. With a sincere invitation from CRHK executive Winnie Yu, he entered the commercial world and joined CRHK. Then in 1994, he joined TVB as the Director of Programming and two years later, he was promoted to General Manager. With a resume like this, is it not much more beautiful than Wai Ka Ching's?

Regardless of this, Stephen is still grateful to Wai Ka Ching for the colourful life that he has provided. In truth, without this secret identity, he would just have been a young person hidden away in a government office quietly waiting for promotion to a secretary.

Before the interview, the reporters prepared a lot of background research and found this little episode. A showbiz reporter once asked Stephen: "Who else would you like to interview for 'Be My Guest'?" At the time, the answer was Wai Ka Ching. At this interview, this was raised again with Stephen to get some more details. "When the logical Stephen Chan interviews Wai Ka Ching, what questions would he ask?"
"I would ask Wai Ka Ching, what would you find attractive in a woman? Have any girls courted you?" After this, he laughs heartily, but does not give any answers, so the reporters continue to ask: "So have you?"
"Wai Ka Ching would reply: 'I have never felt that I would have the appearance that people would find attractive, but I know that a lot of people like my voice.'" That sounds more like a Stephen Chan answer than a Wai Ka Ching answer, the reporter protests.

He just reveals a trademark dimpled smile, that is unknown whether it belongs to Stephen Chan or Wai Ka Ching, and does not say a word.

Love to Talk and Entertain the Masses

No matter which persona he uses, they both love to talk. "Since I was young, I have loved to perform, to talk, to imitate people around me and make my schoolfriends laugh, entertaining everyone." After growing up, apart from the odd stage performance, he has used his voice to entertain and chat with the listeners
as well as to negotiate as a goverment official. "I feel that no matter who I am communicating with, the most invincible trait is to be genuine."

He tells of when he was posted at the Hong Kong Offices in London in 1987, he once worked with Constitutional Affairs Bureau Chief Mr Stephen Lam. At the time, Mr Lam's exterior was rather cool and Stephen felt that communicating was difficult, but he said directly to him: "Stephen, you have built a wall around you that is too tall and this will make it very diffucult for us to communicate." Lam kept these words silently in his heart until one occasion, when he invited Stephen and his family to dinner and Stephen saw a completely different side to Mr Lam. "It turned out that he was a very warm and friendly person." Since then, he has realised that to truly understand a person, you have to see their different faces. "So I always say that the 'conflict' in 'War and Beauty' exists only in dramas. Interacting with other people, you cannot conflict with those who are genuine. Take the innocence of children, who have no ulterior motives, how can you enter into 'conflict' with them?"

On the day of the interview, the reporters can see Stephen's display of 'genuinity'. When the interview was over and the reporters were preparing to leave and almost forgot their tape recorder, he imitated the little dog toy on his desk and said: "Hey, don't forget your tape!". Then he offered his goodbye in a cutie voice as the reporters left. This is Stephen Chan being the most genuine.

Reporter: Chan Wing Sze
Translated by Em @ TVBspace


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