It matters who owns the media

Opinion  |  Eric Loo
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Media owners try to project an image of non-interference in the news-making process. Editors try to preserve a public face of editorial independence. The reality, though, is quite different.

Ownership does influence editorial policies and content. After all, why own a media if you cannot use it to spread your views or fraternise with those in power for favours and profits? It does matter who owns the media.

The prime minister has at last admitted to this reality. It’s been a long time coming. But limiting political party ownership of the media to 10 percent will not significantly change the media culture after decades of uniform sycophantic reportage.

Political parties should, in fact, be barred from holding any media stake, with the exception of party-owned newspapers such as Harakah (PAS), The Rocket (DAP) and Suara Keadilan (PKR). We know they are party organs with specific political motives – to propagate their party agenda.

One may argue that if corporations can own the media, why not political parties? It comes down to differentiating between profit and propaganda. Profit drives corporations. Propaganda drives political parties.

While both forms of ownership do compromise public interest, it is clear which is the lesser evil. A political appointment to an executive editorial position, not least to a national news agency, therefore, will not augur well for fair and independent coverage of public affairs. It breaches the professional tenet of reporting with some modicum of impartiality.

To better understand how media institutions are structured to serve the political and economic interests of their owners, let’s look at a propaganda model developed by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky in the late 1980s.

The model suggests five filters that can influence media behaviour in a capitalist economy, and to an extent, manufacture public consent through its reportage. These are ownership, funding, sourcing, flak and ideology...

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