Four Malaysian Chinese dailies are now controlled by a single person. These four have an estimated market share of over 90% of the Chinese vernacular press readers. I do not wish to go into the details of how a political party was involved in the whole episode since 2001. But there is certain concern that we would have to consider.
What may happen in a monopolistic media environment?
- News may get slanted. Stories may 'be spinned' easier. Truth may not be reported if it is deemed detrimental to certain interest.
- Newsstand prices may be raised. People may have to pay a higher price because there is no other choice in a monopoly. Ordinary folks may have to spend more on getting news.
- Advertisement costs may go up because there is no more concern for any competition. It is a situation of 'you want to advertise, you come to us and we name the price'. Business costs may go up and prices of goods may have to be increased.
- People considered unfriendly to the media group or its allies may not get any exposure. An early casualty is former minister Chua Chui Meng. The four dailies did not send any newsmen to cover his function.
There will also be a very big impact on Chinese NGOs and political parties. Those who want to have their news published may want to 'be friendly' with this group and hence may be influenced. End result? The Chinese community may be influenced as a whole.
Perhaps it is about time that legislation be made to limit individual ownership of the press in Malaysia just like the ownership of banks. No one person or one big group should have a controlling stake in any newspaper.
Only then we can be assured that the press would not be used to further any individual's agenda.
Here, I would like to appeal to the conscience of the person concerned to sell one or two of the papers under his control as a goodwill gesture to the Chinese community. Otherwise, his move would have a big impact on our community and will affect all of us including our future generations.