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Singapore radio station admits wrongfully denying S$10,000 prize to man who ‘mispronounced’ celebrity name


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PETALING JAYA, May 22 — Singaporean radio station Gold 905 has finally awarded Muhammad Shalehan a S$10,000 (RM30,600) cash prize after a lengthy dispute over his entry into their Celebrity Name Drop quiz.
Muhammad had entered a contest in which he was asked to name the 14 mystery celebrities whose voices had been spliced to form an audio clip saying, “Gold 9-0-5, the station that sounds good, and makes you feel good.”
The father-of-three told BBC that while the SG$10,000 prize “wouldn’t change his life,” it would still go a long way in helping him repay his loans and prepare for the arrival of his fourth child in August.
After months of tuning into the station all day and working out the sequence based on incorrect answers from other contestants, Muhammad made his second attempt in Celebrity Name Drop on April 21 and listed down the names of the 14 stars: 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.
A moment of suspense followed as the judges went over Muhammad’s answer and DJ Chris Ho finally replied, saying, “Hey (Muhammad), you got 13 correct names. Not bad. Keep working on it.”
Muhammad said his thanks and hung up the phone but he couldn’t understand which name had foiled his chance at winning the top prize.
He then got a rude shock on May 6 when another listener named Jerome Tan was crowned the winner of the quiz after providing the exact same list of names Muhammad had read out loud.
Singaporeans began bombarding Gold 905’s Facebook demanding an explanation on why Muhammad was denied the winnings despite being the first to nail all the names correctly.
Gold 905, which is owned by broadcasting empire Mediacorp, said the rules of the contest require contestants to “(pronounce) the celebrities’ names in the way the celebrity will pronounce it himself/herself” in order to win.
“In the case of Mr Shalehan’s entry on April 21, his pronunciation of (UK singer Tony Hadley’s surname) ‘Hadley’ did not meet the criteria as stipulated in the rules of the contest,” the station said in a Facebook post on May 20.
They even attached a video comparing the pronunciations of Hadley’s name as said by Hadley himself, Muhammad, and Tan.
In the same statement, Gold 905 said they would be reaching out to Muhammad with a “token of appreciation” as a “gesture of goodwill.”
Muhammad later revealed that the “token of appreciation” from the station amounted to a S$5,000 compensation, but he remained convinced that he had been judged unfairly and was the rightful winner of the original prize.
“I do not deserve your token of appreciation. I rightfully deserve the full prize and your apology to the public and myself for treating us like a fool,” Muhammad wrote on Facebook.
He then went to the only man who could settle the matter once and for all.
He emailed Hadley’s manager Matt Glover with a plea for help, asking Hadley to judge whether or not his pronunciation of his last name was correct.
To Muhammad’s surprise, Hadley, who fronted 80s new romantics in Spandau Ballet, recorded a video message for him, assuring Muhammad that he had said his surname “absolutely correctly.”
“I’ve listened back to the tape and as far as I’m concerned, you pronounced my name absolutely correctly.
“You might have had a slight accent but as far as I’m concerned, you said my name correctly, so you should be entitled to whatever the prize was,” said Hadley.
The case got international attention and Muhammad was even interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio to discuss the dispute between him and Gold 905.
Hadley was present during the same broadcast and said this was the “most bizarre thing (he’d) ever been involved in.”
Following intense public backlash and mounting support for Muhammad, Gold 905 finally posted a brief Facebook statement this morning saying they were “deeply sorry” and that they will be awarding the full cash prize and shopping spree to Muhammad.
“Since Tony Hadley has said that Mr Shalehan said his name correctly, who are we to disagree?” read the statement.
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