MEDIA OWNERSHIP IN MALAYSIA AND ITS SOCIAL EFFECTS
In this day and age, societies from all over the world tend to rely too much on the media and its shenanigans. Media, in its various platforms hold all the cards when it comes to disseminating information, knowledge, or messages. The dissemination of information from the media would vary, according to the explicit and implicit rules laid down by the ones governing the media organization.
The mechanism of control generally exercised by media proprietors is through the appointment of editors, “who become the proprietor’s ‘voice’ within the newsroom, in order to ensure that journalistic independence conforms to the preferred editorial line” (McNair, 1994). Simply put, the ones who own the media hold the power to set the course of actions and principles of the media through its editorial line. Media could be covering up scandalous issues or disseminating false allegations whenever it is deemed necessary by its owner.
PATTERNS OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP
In 1972, a greater grip on the printed press was implemented. The reign of foreign ownership over Malaysian newspapers was ended. A developing nation need full control over its media in order to shape its public in a way they see fit.
The media ownership in Malaysia was initially government-based. The Straits Times Press Group, whose major shareholders was Singaporean, was initially bought by PERNAS (Perbadanan Nasional Berhad), and later transferred over to an UMNO investment company called Fleet Holdings. UMNO, as the ruling party during that time, possesses major stakes in media ownership. Basically, the government has such strong choke hold over mainstream media through its associates and subsidiaries.
For example, UMNO holds controlling interests in TV3,New Straits Times Press (NSTP), The Malay Mail, Berita Harian and the Chinese daily, ShinMin Daily News. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has its controlling interests in The Star and the Chinese daily, Tong Bao, while MIC has interests in three Tamil dailies – Tamil Nesan,Thinamani and Tamil Osai as well as in TV3 (Balraj-Ambigapathy, 1997).
Then, in 1983, privatization of media came into action. As a matter of fact, privatization of TV3 is the initial media ownership transfer to private sector. TV3 was licensed in 1983 to Sistem Televisyen (M) Berhad (STMB). Forty-per cent of the STMB stock was held by Fleet Group, which is UMNO’s holding company. Holding more stock ownership than any other single entity, Fleet Group had the right to select the remaining ownership partners (Gomez & K. S., 1999). In turn, TV3 in owns MEGA-TV, a MMDS “cable” provider (Nain & Mustafa, 1998).
The mass media ownership pattern in Malaysia was indicated the links between media and politics. For instance, United Malay National Organization (UMNO) is component party and acting leader of the incumbent Barisan National (BM). Media Prima the famous television stations and it was aligned with United Malay National Organization (UMNO party). TV3, 8TV, Channel 9 and NTV7 were owned by Media Prima (Anuar, 2014).
Later, Ananda Krishnan was issued a license in 1995 to operate MEASAT. MEASAT in turn launched ASTRO, Malaysia’s digital direct broadcast satellite service (Shriver, 2003).
Natseven TV Sdn Bhd (NTV7), Malaysia’s most recent entry into the privately owned free-to-air television market, was licensed in 1998. Datuk (Dr.) Effendi Norwawi the Chairman of ENCORP group, which owns NTV7, serves as the Chairman of NTV7.
Malaysia’s privately owned FM stations exhibit similar ownership patterns as television, and is largely controlled by Ananda Krishnan. Five of the seven stations are owned by Airtime Management and Programming Sdn. Bhd. (AMP). AMP additionally operates four “FM” services that are available only via digital direct broadcast satellite (ASTRO). AMP is also a division of Krishnan’s ASTRO.
When internet usage is trending worldwide, electronic media emerges. Malaysiakini was the first commercial internet newspaper in Malaysia since 1999, it is an independent online newspaper owned by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan. Launched just prior to the General Election in 1999, Malaysiakini was funded by Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). Gradually, electronic media like Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider are gaining audience as they present more alternative, free form for freedom of expression.
Consequently, mainstream media is hitting rock bottom, resulting in a media restructuring in August 2003. A new company, Media Prima Berhad (MPB) replaced TV3. Under the restructuring scheme, MPB acquired 100% equity interest in TV3 and 43.5% stake in New Straits Times Press Malaysia (Berhad) (NSTP) (Thomas, Nain, 2004). Thus, MPB become the largest media company in Malaysia.
Media Prima also owns several radio stations, including the popular Malay-language hotfm– 23 per cent reach, number 1 on average audience and Fly FM, the 3rd most popular English-language station, and onefm, that was acquired in January 2010 from Radio Wanita Sdn Bhd and renamed.
Apart from that, media in Malaysia is expanding towards IPTV that operates based off broadband deployment and copper infrastructure. So far, the progress is still limited to Telekom Malaysia. Telekom Malaysia is planning a 4th quarter launch of commercial IPTV services, following a 10,000-home trial. Telekom Malaysia currently operates a website, Hypp.TV, which offers online video content to TM’s 1.5 million Streamyx high-speed broadband subscribers (Wagstaff, 2010).
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP
In a sociological perspective, mass media play a crucial role in shaping the society via various aspects; societal forces such as the economy, politics, and technological advances.
For instance, the emergence of alternative media like Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider provides a strong platform for freedom of expression. This phenomenon allows people to discuss their opinions and evaluate current situations without any governmental constraints. Therefore, the society would not be easily broken down or intimidated by the ruling government any longer, as everyone was given fair chances to take part in matters involving our nation. Alternative media also provide the society with wide arrays of information, with no regards to protecting liability of the government. So, the society would be better informed and always being in the loop. This approach exposes the society with different political perspectives, so various ideology can be evaluated and implemented if deemed reasonable towards building a strong, prosper nation.
Besides, the pattern of media ownership would eventually affect the nature or range of media products. Local TV stations tend to develop their programs by adapting formats from other countries like game shows, chat shows, contests, and leisure programming. This method is applied for the sake of preserving our culture and values. However, concentration in media ownership, where the industry is dominated by fewer media conglomerates, it would affect the diversity of the media products. Simply put, when the same people control various media platforms, the content dispersed would be repetitive or quite similar. This is very problematic as all types of diversity are important to serve the public interest. They ensure that the interests, opinions, and demands of different audiences are addressed.
In addition, media has a significant role in influencing and forming people attitude and behaviours. Mass media is interrelated with socialization. Socialization is the process whereby we learn and internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of our culture while developing a sense of self (Croteau, Hoynes, Milan, 2012). In this spectrum, media is a tool to educate people about health, wealth, and values. Media moguls have the power to foster viewers’ self-efficacy based on what they believe in. So, when media ownership is being left in the hands of media moguls, there would only be certain values that are being portrayed. Other important values may be excluded, if it does not concern or benefit the owner of the media. Thus, the issues of social responsibility versus making profits become more concerning, especially when the media ownership is concentrated with media moguls that primarily are a bunch of profit makers and marketers.
1. McNair, B. (1994), News and Journalism in the UK: A Textbook, London, Routledge
2. Shriver, R. (2003), Malaysian Media: Ownership, Control and Political Content, Zanesville: Newark, Ohio University
3. Balraj-Ambigapathy, S. (1997), Critical media education in Malaysia: A challenge to vocational-orientation, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 3, 142-15, Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/apme/vol1/iss3/10
4. Croteau, D. Hoynes, W. Milan, S. (2012), Thousand Oaks:CA, SAGE Publications Inc.
5. Wagstaff, J. (2010), Southeast Asian Media: Patterns of Production and Consumption: A survey of national media in 10 countries of Southeast Asia, OSI Southeast Asian Media
6. Thomas, P. N. & Nain, Z. (2002), Who Owns the Media: Global Trends and Local Resistances, Penang, Malaysia, Southbound Sdn Bhd.
7. Anuar, M. K. (2014), Election Advertising in the Mainstream Print Media: Politics for Sale during Malaysia’s 2013 General Election, Asia Pacific Media Educator, vol 24, issue 1, pp 77-94
8. Gomez, Edmund Terence and Jomo K. S. Malaysia’s Political Economy, Politics, Patronage and Profits. Cambridge University Press, 1999.
9. Nain, Zaharom & Mustafa K. Anuar. Ownership and Control of the Malaysian Media. Available: http://www.wacc.org.uk/publications/md/md1998-4/nain.html.