Inside Stories

‘Father’ of Greensleeves

The English Language listening tests were first broadcast by RTHK in 1995 and Greensleeves has been used as background music since then. The song, now a collective memory of millions of candidates, was chosen by the Deputy Secretary General at the time, Mr Rex King.

Let’s hear what the ‘Father of Greensleeves’ says about choosing Greensleeves as the background music.

Q: How did you persuade RTHK to broadcast the listening tests?

Rex King: The senior management of Radio Hong Kong were very concerned that if students listened to a listening test for an hour then they would lose the audience that were normally listening at that time.

‘Hey look, there were around 100,000 students at that time sitting the English examination because a huge number were repeaters.’ We said to them, ‘if all these students are listening because of the tests, they might start listening to your programmes to improve their English.’ That could be a huge boost for Radio Hong Kong – and it turned out to be so.

Q: Were students and teachers nervous about the new arrangement?

Rex King: Yes, because it was so new to them, the teachers were nervous – some were terrified and they insisted on having a trial run (mock examination). So the manager of RTHK’s English language programmes asked us, ‘Would you come here at four o’clock on the day of the mock exam for a radio talk-back show so students can ask questions? That would be helpful.’

So at 4 o’clock it started with three of us in the studio. The questions started pouring in and towards 4:30pm he handed me a note, because he couldn’t talk to me while we were on air, saying ‘The switch board is jammed, could you please continue for another half hour?’ We did that and at 5 o’clock there was another note saying ‘the switch board is still jammed, are you willing to go till 5:30pm?’ We agreed, but at 5:30 the switch board was still jammed. The manager had to stop at 6:00pm because of the news, but just before six he passed me yet another note asking, ‘Will you come and do it all again next week?’ That led to another two hours of talk-back. That was a really interesting part of the process. We certainly hadn’t anticipated that sort of thing happening.
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