PETALING JAYA: An media academic has called for deep reforms of government-owned media organisations that go beyond improving their attractiveness and programme content.
Gayathry S Venkiteswaran, an assistant professor at Nottingham University Malaysia, called for a review of the structure, governance and funding sources of state media institutions.
Organisations such as Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) had become entrenched in serving the government’s interest rather than that of the public, she said in response to remarks by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo urging RTM to project a new and more aggressive image in six months to attract more viewers.
Gobind had said such a change was necessary to ensure that the state broadcasting network was able to face healthy competition or even excel in comparison to private local and international TV stations.
Gayathry told FMT that if RTM wished to compete with commercial media, it would need to give priority to the bottom line, but market-based and advertisement-based competition would essentially ignore programming or resources with more public-oriented focus.
“We need media outlets serving content that represents or supports diversity and plurality,” she said. She believed that Gobind’s six-month time frame was not enough.
Malaysia also needed legislation to guarantee the independence and proper functioning of the media, and could learn from the strides made by Indonesia in freeing and empowering its state media, including Televisi Republik Indonesia and Radio Republik Indonesia.
Indonesia had removed registration of newspapers, set up a press council and allowed the setting up of independent public broadcasters. “The broadcasting law was reformed and it involved extensive public consultation,” she said.
However, some countries, such as those in central and eastern Europe, had problems reforming their government-linked media because political forces had taken them over, influencing their governance boards.
“It has taken many years to undo the mindset and culture from that of working for the government to one of serving the public,” she said. A good example of a country that underwent media democratisation was South Africa, which had an exemplary public broadcaster for a while.