20 May 2006

Flat-footed and worse

"Citizen journalism" may have had an impact on the Straits Times during the recent general election. Here I document how the newspaper's reporting and photographic representation of rallies shifted. But rather than attacking the mainstream media for their inadequacies, we should focus on the regulatory regime they have to operate under, although whether they are even more timid than absolutely necessary is a moot question too. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article on the state of the media play here.
Was also pleasantly surprised about the near balanced of coverage given during the campaign period. Esp Today newspaper and CNA.

I think the worst one was Tamil radio, which served as an excellent "party" braodcast media.

I think the "alternate" parties did a good job not berating any of the media coverage. By not attacking, they got them to look at thinks fairly.

ALso, it was great tactic when Mr Low thanked the "men in Blue" and "the media" at the close of his party's rally in Serangoon on eve of polling day.

One point that we should look closely is how the media is controlled and in particular the licensing of the newspapers. Strangely all newpapers have to renew the licenses on a annual basis! Imagine, SPH's billion dollars business is actually based on a piece of paper that can disappear before 12 months is out, with no reasons given. Rather delicate situation for a "first-world" country.

This regime should be reviewed and we could go the same way as how our annual renewal of driving licenses were considered a waste of adminstrative time and ablosihed with approval all round.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the points made in your article. I especially appreciate the fact that you go right down to specific examples, giving "before" and "after" snapshots to illustrate your point. This makes your comments about unfair media coverage very objective.

Perhaps we should not have even expected media coverage to be fair in the first place, simply because of the way the media share ownership is organised. I've friends working in the ST who told me that the official line is that they support whoever is the government in power. And MM Lee had never made secret his disdain for an uncontrolled Singapore media (not elected by the people, yet had such a large influence on them) and how proud he was to have "fixed" the media ever since PAP came into power.

However, I do feel that in GE 2006, the Singapore media had - how do I put it -"unwittingly shown public sympathy for the opposition cause". I think the Straits Times had been particularly guilty (maybe Today too, though I don't know since I don't read it).

I think I'm not the only one to think so.

Even MM Lee, in his GE 2006 post-mortem comments, referred to "strong desire for opposition" and "young journalists" as being factors that eroded PAP support.

What do I mean by "unwitting sympathy" ?

During the elections, I was amused by how enthralled ST was over Sylvia Tan (and to a lesser extent, Glenda Han). I remembered reading not just one, but several interviews, about her. There was one which talked about how she came to join WP. There was another one Sunday talking about election fashion sense and her comments were featured too. I think all these articles had the effect of portraying a "soft side" to the opposition which makes them likeable. And you can't blame "young journalists" for giving prominent coverage to such stuffs - these personalities are fresh, considered news worthy. Its not unlike how Claire Chiang stood out from the crop of new MPs during her time.

I was thinking only half in jest that if WP cannot field a top notch Malay candidate in the next GE, perhaps the next best alternative is to field a media-worthy Malay candidate - think of the buzz that will be generated in Berita Harian if say, a Singapore Idol finalist, or Malay soccer star, is fielded.

Post election, I was also taken aback by the analysis written by Warren Fernandez & yes, even Chua Mui Hoong in the ST. Ms. Chua wrote about how GE 2006 can best be characterized by an orchestra in which 3 different blocks were playing their own thing & the conductor not quite getting a control on things. Message - she sees the hand of MM Lee, the hand of SM Goh, occasionally the hand of PM Lee .. sometimes, these are clashing & PM Lee was basically not in control. Warren basically said the PAP campaign was so confusingly run that its only AFTER the election, that PM Lee's style & leadership emerged (ie. reconciliatory tone in acceptance speech). I consider these 2 articles rather daring - almost a more subtle rejoinder of Catherine Lim.

My sources tell me that these "unwittingly sympathetic" tone had been noticed by the PAP and will be fixed. PAP's model of GE coverage is probably the Berita Harian - virtual news blackout for the opposition - and who is to blame them : look at the results in Aljunied where if you strip out the Malay vote (20% of voters being Malay & probably 75% support), then its a 50:50 split between PAP & WP.

Thanks for taking the time to read my rather long musings.