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Malaysian Media: Ownership and Control. Rick Shriver Ohio University Electronic Media Zanesville, Ohio. Malaysian Culture. Multi-racial society: ( officially ) Malays 61% Chinese 30% Indians 8% Orang Asli (Orignal Man) , and diverse indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak (Borneo) 1%.

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malaysian media ownership and control

Malaysian Media:Ownership and Control

Rick Shriver

Ohio University

Electronic Media

Zanesville, Ohio

malaysian culture
Malaysian Culture

Multi-racial society: (officially)

  • Malays 61%
  • Chinese 30%
  • Indians 8%
  • Orang Asli (Orignal Man), and diverse indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak (Borneo) 1%
malaysian culture3
Malaysian Culture
  • Islam the official religion, but freedom of worship allows all religions to coexist.
  • Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Animists.
malaysian politics
Malaysian Politics
  • Constitutional Monarchy since 1957.
  • Supreme Head of State is the Yang Di Pertuan Agong - the King.
  • Parliamentary government headed by Prime Minister Dato Sri Doctor Mahathir Mohammed, since 1981.
malaysian politics5
Malaysian Politics
  • Parliament controlled by a multi-party ruling coalition “Barisan National.”
  • BN made up of parties representing the three major ethnic groups.
  • UMNO: Malay national party exerts the most control, also includes MCA (Chinese) and MIC (Indian).
malaysian politics6
Malaysian Politics
  • Government characterized as “semi-authoritarian” to “authoritarian” by outside observers.
  • Elections subject to gerrymandering.
  • Civil liberties are allowed as long as they do not threaten the control of the BN.
malaysian politics7
Malaysian Politics
  • BN has ruled the country since 1969, by maintaining a 2/3 majority in Parliament.
  • This has enabled the government to amend the constitution at will.
  • Power has become increasingly concentrated in the executive branch and the Prime Minister.
malaysian politics8
Malaysian Politics
  • Mounting dissention resulting from the conspicuous accumulation of wealth by the PM and BN.
  • The Putrajaya; PM’s residence referred to as Mahathir’s Taj Mahal.
malaysian politics9
Malaysian Politics
  • Primary opposition to UMNO comes from PAS.
  • PAS is conservative Muslim/Malay party.
  • PAS advocates return to strict Muslim law, more conservatism.
malaysian politics10
Malaysian Politics
  • PAS-controlled state of Kelantan enforces conservative Muslim law.
  • Fines for women without cover.
  • No mixing of genders.
malaysian politics11
Malaysian Politics
  • PAS has combined forces with other parties to form a weak opposition coalition.
  • Nearly total lack of access to the media by the opposition assures the continued power of the BN.
malaysian politics12
Malaysian Politics

Self-perpetuating system as elections are called only when Prime Minister is satisfied that the BN has the majority support required to sustain their control of the government.

Most recently disenfranchising thousands of newly registered young voters.

malaysian politics13
Malaysian Politics
  • New Economic Policy announced in 1970.
  • Aimed at eradicating “inequalities” between ethnic Chinese and the Islamic Malay Bumiputera.
  • Viewed by many as “affirmative action for the majority.”
new economic policy
New Economic Policy
  • Redistribution of wealth; requiring “majority ownership” by Bumiputera in corporations.
  • Other provisions: interest-free loans, free university education, government jobs, reserved land ownership.
new economic policy15
New Economic Policy

Thus it is under the provisions of the NEP that all corporate ownership is monitored and controlled.

This obviously includes ownership of the media.

malaysian television
Malaysian Television
  • “Free-to-Air” (TV 1, TV 2, TV 3, Metrovision, NTV7)
  • MEGA TV (microwave distribution, 6 -7 western channels, 1 Chinese, 1 Indian)
  • ASTRO (digital direct satellite, 12 - 15 western channels, 3 Chinese, 1 Indian)
malaysian free to air television
Malaysian Free-to-Air Television
  • TV 1 & TV 2 owned and operated by State-run Radio-Television Malaysia.
  • TV 3, Metrovision* and NTV7 privately owned.

*off-air for parts of 1999 & 2000.

mega tv
  • Microwave subscription television service.
  • “Wireless cable.”
  • CNN (Asia), ESPN (Asia), Discovery Channel, HBO (Asia), AXN (Action), Taiwanese TV, TNT/Cartoon/Variety (day-parted).
  • All channels subject to content controls.
astro tv
  • Digital direct broadcast satellite.
  • 20+ channels.
  • Including Disney, MTV (Asia), Bloomberg, Showtime, Nickelodeon, CNBC, Star Movie, and others including all MEGA channels.
  • All subject to content controls, enforced by a team of approximately 20 censors.
content by type
Content by type
  • 31% Western entertainment
  • 25% Malaysian news/public affairs
  • 23.5% Malaysian entertainment
  • 18% Asian Entertainment
  • 2.5% Cultural content *

*including religious programming

television content controls
Television content controls
  • U = “suitable for all levels of society.”
  • 18SG = 18+ with non-excessive violent/horrifying scenes.
  • 18SX = 18+ with non-excessive sex scenes.
  • 18PA = with political/religious/counter- culture elements.
  • 18PL = 18+ with a combination of two or more elements.
television content controls25
Television content controls
  • V = Violent content.
  • H = Horror content.
  • S = Sexual content.
  • C = Counter-culture content.
television content controls26
Television content controls

Zero tolerance. Scenes that are deemed “excessive” are excised completely.

Often at the expense of continuity and story-line.

  • Approximately 10 state-run stations operated by Radio-Television Malaysia.
  • “Free-to-air” FM signals broadcast in English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil, Orang Asli dialect.
  • Repeated throughout peninsula, Sabah, Sarawak.
  • Western and ethnic music.
  • 7 privately-owned free-to-air FM stations.
  • HITZ-FM, MIX-FM, BEST-FM, Light and Easy FM, etc.
  • 4 DBS satellite radio services, distributed by ASTRO.
  • Begun in 1983, with the privatization of TV3.
  • Licensed to Sistem Televisyen (M) Berhad.
  • 40% of STM stock held by Fleet Group.
  • Fleet Group is UMNO’s holding company.
  • UMNO the party of PM Mahathir.
  • Fleet Group control allowed to select remaining partners.
  • 1994 - license issued for Metrovision.
  • Licensed to Melewar Corp. and Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad.
  • Melewar Corp. is controlled by Tunku Abdullah, close associate of PM Mahathir.
  • ASTRO subscriber base nearing 500,000.
  • Owned by MEASAT (licensed in 1995).
  • MEASAT owned by Ananda Krishnan
  • Krishnan reportedly a close friend of PM Mahathir, and long-time board member of Bank Negara, estimated worth over $250-million U.S.
print media ownership
Print MediaOwnership

U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights and Practices:

“…leading political figures in the ruling coalition, or companies controlled by them, own most major newspapers.”

print media government controls
Print Media Government Controls
  • Sedition Act.
  • Official Secrets Act.
  • Internal Security Act.
  • Printing Presses and Publications Act.

All are used to suppress publication of government criticisms.

sedition act
Sedition Act
  • Prohibits public comment on issues which are defined as sensitive, such as racial or religious matters. Often used to restrict dissenting political speech.
official secrets act
Official Secrets Act
  • Also restricts freedom of expression. Opposition leaders have often accused the government of using the OSA to cover up corruption.
printing presses and publications act
Printing Presses and Publications Act
  • Requires annual licensing of domestic and foreign publications.
  • Makes publishing “malicious news” a punishable offense.
  • Results in extensive self-censorship by the press.
criminal defamation laws
Criminal Defamation Laws
  • The Center for Independent Journalism cited self-censorship as the biggest obstacle to press freedom in Malaysia.
  • Fear of lawsuits was identified as a primary cause of self-censorship.
motion pictures
Motion Pictures
  • Government censorship board censors films for profanity, nudity, sex, violence, and certain religious and political content.
  • Last Malaysian major film studio closed in 1980.
  • Communications and Multimedia Act (April 1, 1999).
  • Requires licensing for Internet providers.
  • Provides for “legal action against those who post defamatory and false information on the Internet.”
  • Police have detained people under the ISA for “cyber rumor-mongering.”
  • Other laws are being drafted to allow legal action against those spreading “misleading information” and pornography.
politics and the media
Politics and the Media
  • Most recent elections held in November 1999.
  • Government strictly prohibited any reporting on the opposition by state-run radio and television.
  • Private television stations carried no impartial reporting on the opposition.
politics and the media42
Politics and the Media
  • Newspapers denied nearly all opposition advertising, leading up to the election.
  • The few ads that appeared were edited by the newspapers.
  • UMNO placed full-page ads on every-other-page of major newspapers in the weeks before the election.
  • Media nearly all owned by members of UMNO, members of the Barisan National, or “cronies” of the Prime Minister and his deputies.
  • Print media are further heavily controlled by government through selective enforcement of federal laws, fear of criminal lawsuits, and licensing.
  • Privately-owned electronic media are owned by member of the Barisan National, or associates of the Prime Minister and his deputies.
  • All electronic media content is tightly controlled by government censorship and content restrictions.
  • The Malaysian press is not free.
  • The resultant effect on political speech is a chilling one.
  • Racial tensions have been created, perpetuated and exacerbated by the NEP, with no likelihood of change.
  • Opposition voices are silenced.