A news piece in a local portal caught my eye, detailing the plight of the media sector, particularly journalists.
If you have yet to notice, there has definitely been a shrinking media industry in Malaysia. In fact, this trend will not be turning around anytime soon, and it did not start with The Malaysian Insider.
In fact, I believe this trend started in 2014, with The NutGraph shutting down.
The now defunct portal launched in 2008 went through the donation path, collecting RM41,503.83 by January 2010 to keep it running an entire year, after losing its investors. And then it was basically running on fumes for four years till it shut down.
We also saw the shutting down of The Heat (later The Heat Online), The Rakyat Post (and return), and also Malaysiakini’s business news portal, KiniBiz. The Heat Online was relaunched as The Heat Malaysia. What lies ahead?
On top of that, news channels for television also shrunk – which includes ABN News and also Bloomberg Malaysia.
At the same time, it seems that even the pro-government media are facing the same problem.
Case in point – Utusan Malaysia has gone on the record through the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) asking for its owners to let it go if payments are delayed.
There have also been rumours that even the official government media channels – Bernama, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and even listed Media Prima Bhd are having trouble retaining, let alone recruiting staff.
September 2016 saw even the English daily New Straits Times rumoured to be going fully digital.
Unfortunately, with the growing ability to cut out media as the middle guy in advertising through social media which is less (much less) of a cost centre, money is hard to come by.
There are models that work. I’m sure Astro is in fact keeping its Awani News in check. Other than that, only ones still keeping in the black thus far are The Star and Malaysiakini.
The latter due to its subscription based pay wall, the former due to being able to be funded largely through advertising.
But this is honestly a worldwide trend that even affects the US and even the UK.
In the US, paywalls are being erected in an effort to get people to pay for sustainable news organisations. The Boston Globe – made famous through Oscar winning movie Spotlight – has a five free stories a day limit before asking people to subscribe.
At the same time, you have the New York Times also moving towards subscriptions, while papers such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have kept themselves exclusively by subscription only.
Meanwhile in the UK, The Independent decided to go fully digital as well and have stopped publishing paper. As much as it is a way for news agencies to “go green”, I doubt that this was the case.
So, how do other countries maintain a thriving media industry? Shall we look at Denmark for a bit?
According to their Ministry of Culture website, there is in fact a “main and supplementary scheme as well as a three-year transition fund for media that obtain less in total aid from the production aid scheme than under the previous distribution of aid scheme”.
How much is this, in total?
Oh, €52 million over a period of three years, but not amounting to more than 35 per cent of the editorial cost.
See, other parts of the world see media as an industry worth supporting in its infancy – which is why I don’t blame Malaysiakini getting funds from the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Journalism and news aren’t cheap, but it ensures an informed public. An informed public makes informed decisions. Thus, it is branded the Fourth Estate – for its ability to influence the general public.
It should in fact be part of our culture to have a thriving media industry, but with no assistance from the government (in fact, our government is a hindrance), the media industry will continue languishing and remaining dependent on others for income – case in point, political parties in some cases.
And that makes it a culture of one-sided information that will eventually lead to disinformation and in the end – total bias and bad decisions.
The Danes rightfully point out: “Media policy is thus regarded as an integral part of Danish cultural policy.”
Malaysians need to ask themselves – what is our culture when it comes to media?
Source : Hafidz Baharom@The Heat Malaysia Online