Saturday, April 27, 2013

Depoliticising The Media

Much has been debated over which companies may "lose out" should Pakatan secures victory. The oft-mentioned companies include those linked to Syed Mokhtar, maybe even Ananda Krishnan and IPPs. One sore thumb has to be the media. The Star,which is aligned to MCA/BN, has been pissing the general public no end with its recent spate of unorthodox advertising campaign. If you noticed the logo of The Star on the front page, its slogan is "The people's paper" - OMG, how far have they moved away from that center??!!

You can also lump in NST and Utusan as well. Some won't even accept advertisements from opposition parties. The media situation is so convoluted and biased in our country, its no joke at all. If we have a Pakatan victory, I think you can lump these papers which are listed entities, as sells as well, don't you think so?!

What kind of media do we have, and let's not even get started on TV and Astro yet. Assuming a Pakatan victory, how do we go about depoliticising the newspapers? Can we say no papers should be owned by any political party? While that is good on paper, its futile in the end as you will get new individual owners owning them who will be aligned to their old masters when they decide to sell to them.

The easiest is to allow for almost free publishing licenses, albeit with some guidelines on financial viability, e.g. minimum paid up RM50m-RM100m. No matter who owns them, individuals may be aligned to one side or the other. By allowing more licenses, the competitive field will ensure that the better newspapers that actually provide real news and little propaganda win in the end. The public are not stupid, as it stands now, the public has little or no choice, neither do the advertisers.

There has to be more protection for press freedom, Journalists have to be empowered to be free from intimidation and persecution. You can then draft rules and laws to that end. Next, to uphold these rules and laws, the judiciary will need to be empowered to be independent - and we all know that that also requires a lot of work.

The trouble with Malaysia, and bulk of why there are so many unhappy Malaysians, is that too many of our institutions are not depoliticise. You are supposed to set up independent bodies to monitor, oversee these institutions, but they also MUST be really independent. For example, MACC, how independent is that place? Hence a new Pakatan government has its work cut out for them, but it has to start somewhere.

There are plenty of committees/commissions that can be set up to depoliticise the environment. As long as they are truly independent and has teeth, we are on our way. Some of the possibilities:

Health  - National Institute for Clinical Excellence
Monetary policy -  Monetary Policy Committee
Crime -  Sentencing Guidelines Council
Food - Food Standards Agency
Judicial Appointments Commission.
Police -  Independent Police Complaints Commission
Education - Qualiļ¬cation and Curriculum Authority

We can go on and on.

Has The Star reached a tipping point?

mca-newspaper-ad-2.0They say a bad ad does more harm than good. But that message seems to be lost on RAPP KL, the international agency behind the ‘kick-ass’ MCA ads that attacks the opposition in The Star.
The public backlash in social media had respondents fuming mad citing them as malicious.
One ad which reads, “A vote for DAP is a vote for PAS” had a leading journalist respond, “A vote for BN can also be a vote for Perkasa.”
Everything seems to be going wrong with the campaign.
The ads that ran on Sunday appear to have been written before the DAP was allowed to use their Rocket symbol, but it was too late to change the ads. Hence the ad where the Rocket morphs into a PAS symbol draws further confusion.
A regional advertising industry publisher got into the fray today saying: “Like The Star, ad agency RAPP KL links back to MCA as it is part of the Foetus Group, which also includes Naga DDB, Milk PR, Beyond Events and Vizeum Media Services.”
Foetus Group Chairman is Vincent Lee, who is also Executive Deputy Chairman of Star Publications (M) Bhd. Sadly, the finger points directly to Lee.
In other words, MCA = The Star.
The Malaysian Code of Advertising (2008) states: No advertisement should contain statements or suggestions which may offend the religious, political, sentimental or racial susceptibilities of any community.
But Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) Malaysia President Johnny Mun told The Malaysian Insider, “The Code only applies to product advertising generally and does not govern political advertisements.”
This throws every argument in the book out of whack because a past 4As President told AdBuster, “The Code applies to all ads.”
Vincent Lee
Vincent Lee
Does this mean the current 4As President is under pressure from another ex 4As President, Vincent Lee himself, who served two full terms in office.
Is it any wonder why no journalist has bothered to ask chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority Malaysia (ASAM), Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir for his opinion? He is known to be  ’friendly’ to The Star.
AdBuster also has inside information that the people writing the ads had their hands forced. They have been bombarded in social media and SMSes making them the latest black sheep of the industry.
“BN has spent over RM160 million in advertising expenditure (adex) in the first three months this year using a block buster strategy, making them three times bigger than the next biggest spender,” says leading media guru Bala Pomaleh, CEO of Carat Media Malaysia in avideo today.
In March alone, the PM’s Office spent at least RM73 million on ads according to Nielsen Media Research. This clearly makes it the most expensive general election ever in terms of adex.
“In comparison, a leading telco or FMMC marketers would normally spend this kind of money in one whole calendar year!” adds advertising strategist Kapil Sethi.
On a macro scale, has The Star reached its tipping point?
Are its competitors smelling blood and an opportunity to knock The Star of its leadership pedestal with this recent bashing by its own readers?
The_Star_Malaysia_logo-300x161Suddenly, many competitors of The Star seem to be coming out of hiding. All this is showing up a new reality: that quite a few people do not like The Star for many varied reasons. Have they now found a final reason to nail it for good?
Besides peddling racial fear against Pakatan Rakyat (PR) the campaign could backfire in the May 5 general election. But it seems they are dead bent on sticking to their strategy despite the writing on the wall. This sort of cocksure aloofness is what may sound the death knell for The Star. They have gambled their readers away for the sake of MCA.
In another development, The Malay Mail (which is the only English daily, apart from theSun, accepting ads from Opposition parties) has gained readership inroads with a bigger print run of 200,000 copies a day since Nomination Day. Their new Cover Page has also caught on very well.
The Star’s radio arm has also not been spared. Their recently rebranded Red FM drew flak from its listeners for airing political ads on its airwaves which portrays the Opposition coalition in bad light. A Facebook page called ‘We Fully Boycott Red.FM’ is currently gaining traction.
But the latest salvo is in the form of an online petition that has gathered a perfect storm with over 800 signatures in just one day alone.
This entire drama is unfolding by the hour, so stay tuned ….