Gold 905 says sorry, gives $10,000 prize to radio contestant

Local radio station Gold 905 has walked back on its decision to deny a man the $10,000 prize for a radio quiz after he was deemed to have mispronounced the name of English singer-songwriter Tony Hadley.

Mr Muhammad Shalehan, 32, had enlisted the help of Hadley himself, after he missed out on the prize, to prove to the station he had pronounced the name of the 59-year-old singer correctly.

Yesterday morning, after much anger from netizens, the station wrote on its Facebook page: “We have reached out to Mr Shalehan again to convey that we are deeply sorry. Since Tony Hadley has said that Mr Shalehan said his name correctly, who are we to disagree? The full prize of $10,000 cash and shopping spree will also be awarded to Mr Shalehan.”

Mr Shalehan, an SMRT train captain, tells The Straits Times he woke up yesterday morning to the news that the station would be giving him the $10,000 prize.

Gold 905 had initially doubled down on its stance after Mr Shalehan sent it a video of Hadley saying the pronunciation of his name was right. However, it offered $5,000 to Mr Shalehan as a gesture of goodwill.

Mr Shalehan says he did not accept that offer because it did not come with an apology saying that the rules were not well explained and were not applied fairly.

He is happy with how things have worked out.

“Most importantly, it has acknowledged publicly that it is sorry. I hope this serves as an inspiration to others, that you do not just shut up because of some money. You have to have some integrity,” says Mr Shalehan, who is married to a childcare teacher.

They have three children aged between two and 12, and are expecting another child in August.

The incident is the first time he has received such public attention.

“My phone keeps ringing with messages, but they are all supportive of me and I’m so happy. Especially fellow listeners who have been following the radio challenge – they know how difficult the challenge is and how much effort it takes to get it right,” he says.

After “hundreds of attempts”, he got on air on April 21 to give his best shot at the Celebrity Name Drop challenge hosted by Gold 905.

The contest promised a prize worth $10,000 in “cash and shopping spree” to the first caller who successfully named all 14 celebrity voices, each saying a word of this phrase, “Gold 9-0-5, the station that sounds good, and makes you feel good”, in order.

Mr Shalehan’s answer of Tony Hadley, Madonna, Maggie Wheeler, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, David Bowie, Belinda Carlisle, Julie Andrews, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Meryl Streep, Michael Buble and Rebecca Lim was deemed wrong.

Deejay Chris Ho told him he got 13 correct names.

But when another caller named Jerome Tan called in on May 6 with the same set of 14 names, he won the $10,000 prize.

When listeners and Mr Shalehan questioned Gold 905 why his answer was rejected, the station said he had mispronounced Hadley’s name and mispronounced names were not considered correct answers.

Mr Shalehan says he was not told of this criterion when he answered.

He argues that several netizens noted that Mr Jerome Tan mispronounced Carlisle’s name.

Undeterred, he searched online for a contact for Hadley, the lead singer of 1980s band Spandau Ballet.

He eventually e-mailed Hadley’s manager to explain the situation and, to his surprise, got a video reply from the man himself, who assured Mr Shalehan that he had pronounced “Hadley” correctly.

Hadley says in the video: “I’ve listened back to the tape and, as far as I’m concerned, you pronounced my name absolutely correctly.”

He adds that while Mr Shalehan may have had a slight accent, he “should be entitled to whatever the prize was”.

Despite the singer’s reply, Gold 905 stood by its decision to deny Mr Shalehan the win.

Public relations veteran Rose Tan, who has more than 40 years of experience, says Gold 905 did not handle the incident well. The principal consultant for Crowd PR says the station made three errors.

“First, it is a naming contest, not a pronunciation contest. If there was any doubt as to who (Mr Shalehan) was referring to, you could have made him spell out the name.

“Second, once Tony Hadley himself confirmed that the pronunciation was correct, it should have apologised and made Mr Shalehan the rightful winner then.”

Lastly, she takes issue with Mediacorp’s lengthy statement released on Wednesday, which said it would offer a gesture of goodwill to him, and its final apology yesterday morning.

Ms Tan says: “What is a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the rightful winner?”

Meanwhile, Mr Shalehan is happy the matter is settled. “It will be a sweet Hari Raya for my family. It shows that if you pursue something with perseverance and the right attitude, it will come true.”

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