MEDIA AND TELEVISION IN MALAYSIA

MEDIA IN MALAYSIA

Most Malaysian newspapers and electronic media outlets are controlled by the government or political parties in the ruling coalition. They also operate with a government license, which must be renewed annually. Internet news sites do not have these restrictions. Traditionally, Malaysia's mainstream media have been pro-government but some newspapers have become bolder in recent years and have openly discussed issues such as race relations that were previously taboo.

Mass media are often discussed in terms of the substantial legal restrictions on acceptable content rather than the increased availability of media. The 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act liberalized acceptable broadcast content and made broadcasters responsible for regulating their own content within legal parameters. The Ministry of Energy, Water, and Communications and the Communications and Multimedia Commission regulate electronic and print media and may revoke the license of any company that is deemed to have violated acceptable media content. The constitution protects freedom of the press, but critics contend that legal parameters on content are highly restrictive and politically motivated. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Government-owned Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), the predominant broadcaster, operates nine national radio services and 16 regional radio services. The government also owns Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia, a religious radio broadcaster. The Voice of Malaysia (VOM) is the government’s international radio service. Malaysia also has seven commercial radio broadcasters and two university radio stations. In 2001 there were 35 AM radio stations, 391 FM radio stations, and 15 shortwave radio stations. RTM has two national television services, and three commercial broadcasters serve only the peninsula. The Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) is the official news agency and has exclusive rights to receive and distribute news in Malaysia. In 2000, Malaysia had 31 daily newspapers with a total average circulation of 2.2 million.

According to Human Rights Watch: With nearly all mainstream newspapers and television and radio stations controlled by media companies close to political parties in the government coalition, social media usage has expanded rapidly, joining popular online news portals as alternative sources for news and information. The internet remains uncensored but the Home Ministry in 2011 again refused the Malaysiakini website’s application to publish a daily print version, saying that a publishing permit is “a privilege,” not a right. Malaysiakini has challenged the Home Ministry’s decision; at this writing the High Court was set to review the challenge on December 8, 2011. Online news portals critical of the government also came under repeated cyber-attacks by unknown assailants at key news junctures, such as the Sarawak elections in April and the Bersih rally in July. [Source: Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012: Malaysia]

Censorship and Freedom of the Press in Malaysia

Malaysia does not have a free and independent press, especially when compared to other countries in the region. In the 1980s, Mahathir muzzled the free press and promoted the notion of “developmental journalism”—the idea that the press should help him in his quest to develop the nation. Reporters printed verbatim what he said. Newspapers that dared to criticize him risked losing their operating licenses. Reporters Without Border ranked Malaysia at 105 out of 166 countries in terms of press freedom.

Newspapers need an annual license to publish. This license can be taken away if the government so deems it. Editors of newspapers that have been overly critical of the government have been arrested and the newspapers themselves, in some cases, have been taken over by groups more friendly to the government. At one point disillusionment with the state-sponsored media became so great the circulation of the main newspaper dropped from 200,000 to 130,000.

According to Freedom House: The constitution guarantees freedom of expression under Article 10, but allows for a host of limitations to this right. The Sedition Act, the Internal Security Act (ISA), and harsh criminal defamation laws are used regularly to impose restrictions on the press and other critics of the government. Violations of these laws are punishable by several years in prison, in many cases without trial. Although the opposition-controlled states of Selangor and Penang passed freedom of information laws in April and November 2011, respectively, Malaysia has no federal freedom of information legislation, and officials remain reluctant to share controversial data with journalists for fear of being charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. [Source: Freedom House ==]

“In July 2011, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in the “Bersih 2.0” rally to demand changes to the voting process, including free and fair access to mainstream media during campaigns. They were forcibly dispersed by police, prompting an inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. In the wake of the rally, Prime Minister Najib Razak in September pledged to repeal the ISA and called for a review of existing media censorship laws, stating that they were no longer “effective.” He said he would also eliminate a provision in the 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) that requires all publishers and printing firms to obtain an annual operations permit, but would leave all other restrictions in place, including the government’s authority to grant or deny license applications and to revoke licenses at any time without judicial review. Despite these promises, official action to reform the media laws had not occurred by year’s end, and a new Peaceful Assembly Act passed by Parliament in late 2011 was considered more draconian than its predecessor. ==

“Also during 2011, the Home Ministry continued to deny the online news website Malaysiakini a print publishing license, stating that such a permit is “a privilege,” not a right. Malaysiakini’s challenge to this decision was expected to be reviewed by the High Court in 2012. The Home Ministry may issue “show cause” letters, which require newspapers to explain certain articles or face suspension or revocation of their permits. In August, the Star newspaper was asked to explain a food supplement called “Ramadan Delights” that included non-halal eateries. Although the paper twice issued public apologies, Star editors were summoned to the Home Ministry on two separate occasions and asked to account for the error. ==

“The 1988 Broadcasting Act allows the Information Ministry to decide who can own a broadcast station and what type of television service is suitable for the Malaysian public, leading to considerable self-censorship among broadcast journalists. In September 2011, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) issued a directive banning the broadcast of a four-minute video clip aimed at increasing voter registration. The video featured prominent BN lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh as well as other Malaysian politicians and celebrities. ==

“Physical harassment and intimidation are less of a danger for journalists in Malaysia than arbitrary arrest or threats of legal action. However, several instances of extralegal harassment were noted in 2011, including a case of police intimidation of a Malaysiakini reporter in August. The perils of journalistic independence were evident in an April guilty verdict against National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Mohamed Ha’ta Wahari, who was convicted of tarnishing his employers’ image and revealing their “secrets.” In September 2010, Ha’ta, a senior journalist with the Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia, had publically criticized the paper for its lack of independence from its owner, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party at the core of the BN. ==

“Although the media industry is for the most part privately owned, the majority of both print and broadcast outlets are controlled either by political parties in the ruling coalition or by businesses with political connections. The largest media conglomerate is Media Prima, which owns half of the Malay and English newspapers as well as many television channels, and is believed to be closely linked to UMNO. Huaren Management—which is associated with another BN member, the Malaysian Chinese Association—monopolizes Chinese newspapers. Despite the BN’s insistence that mainstream newspapers are impartial, owners’ political and business interests often lead to self-censorship by journalists. Foreign print media are occasionally censored or banned. For example, a July Economist piece on the Bersih 2.0 demonstration was censored, with parts of the report blotted out by the Home Ministry.

Film Censorship and Theater Rules

The Malaysian Film Censorship Board is known for cutting and censoring films under Home Ministry regulations which calls for it to “protect the interests of the country and the people from bad influences and negative elements shown in films.”

Schindler’s List was banned because it was regarded as Zionist propaganda. Daredevil was banned because it was deemed too violent and was said to encourage young people to “hero worship someone with a devil-sounding name.” The Prince of Egypt, an animation film about Moses, was banned because it was found to be “insensitive for religious reasons.” Babe was initially banned because it was described as offensive to Muslims who didn't eat pork. After pleas by a distributor the film was ultimately allowed to shown.

A series of Toyota car commercials with Brad Pritt was called “an insult to Asians” by the Malaysian government because using a non-Asian actor would “play to a sense of inferiority among Asians.’ Toyota ended up pulling the ads.

Swear words, love scenes and violent acts are routinely censored. A kiss between two women in The Hours was cut out. Sometimes the censorship board’s decision seem inconstistant. While the film Saving Private Ryan was banned because it was considered to gory, Final Destination 2, a horror film with graphic decapitations and impalements, was allowed to be shown. In some ways the issue of censorship is neither here nor there because so many people watch uncensored pirated DVDs.

No sex scenes and crimes are permitted. Malaysian film classification was introduced in 1996 to provide parents of minors a chance to prevent their children from being exposed to inappropriate materials. There are four 18+ categories used in Malaysia, unlike other countries, which only used one classification for each age, there are 18PA, 18PL, 18SG and 18SX, however, 18PA is rarely used. Movies prior to 1996 also carry ratings, and some of the local movies prior to 1996 later carry 18+ ratings. [Source: Wikipedia]

In March 2012, the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia released new colour-coded logo designs for cinema films' classification. U or 'Umum' is now blue, which meant that the film can be watched by all ages and consists of positive depictions of values. P13 or 'Penjaga 13' is yellow, which signifies that caution should be taken when watching the film as it is not suitable for individuals below 13 and any viewers of that age must be guided by a parent or guardian. 18 is red, which meant that the film is only suitable for viewers aged 18 and above as it contains images of violence, horror and sex, as well as religious, political and social elements. All those changes are effective starting 1 April 2012. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Kelantan Islamic government has also passed law banning excessive lipstick as an "early step towards fighting illicit sex." Lights are kept on during films in movie theaters to make sure no hanky panky goes on. Hotels have to build separate swimming pools for men and women.

Freedom of the Press on the Internet in Malaysia

According to AFP: “Malaysia's media operates under a publishing permit system, which allows the government to shut down outlets at will. However, in 1996 it pledged not to censor online content as part of a campaign to promote its information technology sector and make Malaysia be a high-tech center. Despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism, the online media remain relatively free.

However, Leading members of the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (the National Front) have suggested making amendments to its media laws, such as to punish bloggers who publish materials that are deemed controversial and "anti-government". In 2008, Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of Committee to Protect Journalists, noted in a special report, "Malaysia's Risk-Takers," that the government had not lived up to its promise not to censor the Internet. Three years after Shawn's analysis, and eight years after the end of strongman Prime Minster Mahathir Mohammed's 22-year authoritarian rule, Malaysia has yet to emerge as a country with a truly free press.

According to Freedom House: “The internet remained the one bright spot in the media landscape in 2011, as the country was formally committed to a policy of refraining from online censorship, enshrined in Section 3(3) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) and the Multimedia Bill of Guarantees. With around 61 percent of the population accessing the internet in 2011, Malaysia is home to many websites and blogs that offer competing points of view. Although not all of these internet news organizations are politically independent—many have suspected affiliations with politicians from either the opposition or the ruling coalition—they nevertheless offer an array of political opinions that cannot be found in the traditional media, and play a growing role in the media landscape. Social-networking sites such as Facebook continued to flourish in 2011, hosting vigorous debates on political issues and government policies. The internet has also been a place to challenge corruption and other human rights concerns, but bloggers are still required to tread carefully. In 2011, a Malaysian subsidiary of the manufacturer Asahi Kosei Japan brought a defamation lawsuit for 10 million ringgits ($3.3 million) against Malaysian activist Charles Hector over blog posts in which he criticized the company’s treatment of Burmese migrant workers. The firm dropped the lawsuit after Hector agreed to retract his statements. [Source: Freedom House ==]

“Media observers have voiced concern about an announcement from the Home Ministry that a new law would be introduced to govern sedition in cyberspace. Although this had not occurred by the end of 2011, advocacy groups such as the Centre for Independent Journalism continued to view it as a threat to free expression online. Temporary blocking and censoring of internet content was reported during the year; several opposition and news websites were inaccessible in the days leading up to the April state elections in Sarawak, and a few months later, another episode of “denial of service” occurred surrounding the Bersih 2.0 demonstrations. ==

Crackdowns on Malay Editors and Foreign Journalists

According to Human Rights Watch: “In his September speech, Prime Minister Najib promised to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act but only to end the mandatory annual licensing requirement. The minister of home affairs would retain broad authority, without judicial review, to refuse permission to publish anything he determines “likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security … or national interest.” On July 14 the High Court in Kuala Lumpur upheld the ban on seven books by Malaysiakini cartoonist Zunar and threatened revocation of printers’ licenses if they produced his books. In September the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission ordered broadcasters not to show a non-partisan voter education public service announcement created by well-known film producer and musician Peter Teo. [Source: Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012: Malaysia]

In November 2003, the editor-in-chief of Malaysia’s New Straits Times group said he has lost his job after publishing comments that upset the Saudi royal family. Reuters reported: “The New Straits Times, the country’s oldest newspaper group and one of the biggest, is linked to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s said the company was issuing a statement later today to say that “his term has ended.” He said the move was linked to his November 12 article about the Saudis. Media executives said the story, which criticised the kingdom’s royal family, had sparked a strong but previously unpublicised protest from the Saudi government. NST executives said the decision came after the Prime Minister, who is currently acting party president, met senior UMNO leaders yesterday. They said there were several grounds for the sacking, the main one being the Saudi protest, which has soured otherwise warm ties and embarrassed Malaysia’s new administration. [Source: Reuters, November 21, 2003]

In 1994, Mahathir placed sanction on British companies after British newspapers ran stories about bribery among high officials. The Economist was criticized by the Malaysian government for running an article critical of the government’s policies against foreign workers.

Murray Hilbert, a correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review, was imprisoned for four weeks for contempt of court for an article he wrote in 1997 that criticized way the Malaysian justice system handled the case of 17-year-old boy dropped from his school debating team that also happened to be the son of a judge.

Details About Political Sex Scandals Rock Modest Malaysia

Thomas Fuller wrote in New York Times, “Government censors in this majority Muslim nation uphold an ethos of modesty by snipping sex scenes from films and ordering entertainers to avoid outfits that reveal too much on Malaysian stages — bare belly buttons and figure-hugging outfits are off limits. But these days Malaysians looking to avoid R-rated content might be advised to read past news reports about their own leaders. Top politicians are embroiled in two scandals involving accusations of sodomy and the gruesome murder of a Mongolian mistress [Altantuya Shaariibuu]. Reports on the finer points of a rectal examination and revelations about the sexual preferences of the dead mistress make other sex scandals that once shocked people here — such as Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress — seem almost Victorian. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, August 2, 2008]

This is not the first time that sex and politics have publicly collided in Malaysia. The trial of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister, for sodomy in the 1990s featured, among other highlights, a blood-stained mattress being hauled into the courtroom. This time, wider use of the Internet has helped disseminate documents, facts and rumours that would otherwise have been filtered out of mainstream news media tightly controlled by the government.

The two scandals encompass much more than just sex. They are part of a broader clash between two men vying for power: Anwar is facing new allegations of sodomy at a time when he is vowing to unseat the governing party, while the other scandal involves Anwar's principal political rival, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the deputy prime minister and anointed heir to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. What is worrying for many Malaysians is that the gloves appear to have come off in the high-stakes fight between Anwar and Najib.

Although a number of gruesome facts in the Mongolian case have emerged in court over the past year — Altantuya, for example, was shot and her body obliterated with explosives in the jungle outside Kuala Lumpur — Raja Petra asserts that only a fraction of what happened is being admitted into court. "A good word is disgust — whether it's sodomy or blowing up the Mongolian lady," said the Reverend Wong Kim Kong, executive adviser of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, an umbrella organisation of Protestant churches. A narrow majority of Malaysians are Muslim but the country has sizeable Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh minorities. Wong said the constant barrage of allegations made by bloggers, paired with the government's steady denials, have left Malaysians pining for clarity. "People just cannot trust the word of any of these people," Wong said. "They cannot distinguish who is telling the truth."

Television and Television Programs in Malaysia

Malaysian television broadcasting was introduced in December 1963. Color television was introduced in December 1978. Full-time color transmissions were officially inaugurated on New Year's Day 1982. There are currently 8 national free-to-air terrestrial television stations in Malaysia and 2 national pay subscription television stations in Malaysia. [Source: Wikipedia]

The state-owned TV broadcaster operates two TV networks with relays throughout the country, and the leading private commercial media group operates four TV stations with numerous relays throughout the country; satellite TV subscription service is available [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Malaysian television features lots of singing contests and talent shows, many showcasing young people. Al-Jazeera is broadcast nightly by satellite with a Malay voice over. Wheel of Fortune was popular for a while. A channel dedicated to Mexican telenovelas was launched in 2005. Many television show features plots with ghosts and demons.

Original Survivor Shot in Malaysia

The first Survivor—the popular and successful American reality show—was shot on Pulau Tiga, a 39,200-acre island a few miles off the coast of Borneo, about 90 minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu. The 16 contestants, who were selected from 6,000 applicants, were dropped off on a boat. They were given some rice and beans to eat and some water to drink. Otherwise they had to fend for themselves, getting the protein from fish and rats.

One by one they voted each other off over a seven week period until only one member remained to claim the $1 million prize. The people who were voted off were flown back to civilization in a helicopter, accompanied by a psychologist who helped them deal with rejection and frustration over missing a chance to win $1 million.

A 160-member crew was on hand to film the show. They brought tons of equipment, generators and an air conditioned editing trailer with them. All the members of the crew and the contestants had to sign a contract that would make them liable for $4 million if they revealed the winner of the show. Survivor is based on the Swedish show Expedition Robinson. That show had some troubles. The first person to be voted off committed suicide a month later by leaping in front of a train.

Survivor claimed that Pulau Tigra was “untouched by humans for centuries” and besides the contestants “the only other inhabitants are long tailed macaque monkeys, monitor lizards and deadly coral snakes.” That was not totally true. Seventeen park rangers live on the island full time, local fishermen regularly visit it and over 1,000 people visit the island annually for picnics and hikes. A new resort was set to open shortly after the show completed filming. Planes bound for Brunei and Kota Kinabalu, a city with 100,000 people, regularly flew by.

While Survivor was being filmed, the island was closed to local people and great deal of effort was made to guard the secrecy of the show. Maritime police patrolled the water around the island to turn back unwanted visitors. Before the contestants arrived the film crew collected 200 plastic bags of trash, most of which has washed up from the sea, to make sure the island look uninhabited. Local guides were sometime employed to give the contestants a hand. They were often amused by how squeamish, wimpy and ill-prepared the contestants were.

Malaysian Idol

Malaysian Idol was a popular show in the early 2000s that mimiced the American Idol format. The judges not only evaluated the contestants but also critiqued them, sometimes with very brutal and insulting comments. In one show after a singer finished the judge said, “I really wanted to leave when you opened your mouth to sing just now. I could not stand your voice.” In March 2006, 8TV's CEO announced that Malaysian Idol would not return for a third season. However, the show was succeeded by One in a Million (2006-2009), another reality singing competition that used a similar format.

Malaysian Idol is the Malaysian version of the Idol Series that started in UK, similar to shows such as UK's Pop Idol and American Idol in the franchise. This show is a contest to determine the best young singer in Malaysia, with the winner receiving a major record deal, although some runners-up have achieved enough fame to ink record deals of their own. Like any other Idol show, the winner is decided by public votes. The Malaysian Idol series has gained a following in Malaysia from people of all ages partly due to their interest in American Idol which had been introduced a few years prior. Malaysian Idol has been broadcast to Malaysian viewers via terrestrial television, 8TV and TV3. The last few finalists of Malaysian Idol have become celebrities because they have their own following of fans who supported them throughout their appearance on Malaysian Idol. [Source: Wikipedia]

In Malaysian Idol, auditions were held for the top finalists. The first season was hosted by Phat Fabes ("Phat") and Sharifah Aleya. However for the second season, Jien's new co-host was Cheryl Samad. Malaysian Idol was also unique in presenting in a bilingual English/Malaysian format, Jien representing a large portion of the English dialogue and the Malaysian part primarily Aleya/Samad which would have been of aid to Paul Moss' appearance on the show.

In a nutshell, the Malaysian Idol competition follows the Idol Series' main concept. All rounds of competition are broadcasted on television. Contestants who aspire to be singers sign up and audition for the preliminary round in front of three judges (refer Judges below). Successful candidates enter the next round. In the next phase, Idol contestants perform individually and in a group. This round of elimination is also known as the "Theatre Elimination" Round (equivalent to American Idol's Hollywood Round) and their fate is again decided by the judges. The last phase involves weekly performances in front of an audience. The person with the least votes (as sent in by the audience throughout Malaysia through SMS and telephone calls) for each week is eliminated. After each performance the judges will give their feedback; however they do not determine whether the contestant should stay or go. This goes on until the Malaysian Idol has been selected.

As in the format for American Idol where there were two American and one British judges, two of the judges in Malaysian Idol were native Malaysians, and the other a New Zealander. Similarly, two out of three of Malaysian Idol judges were male. The judges included: Paul Moss — New Zealander singer, songwriter, producer, recording company Positive Tone's Artiste & Repertoire (A&R) director; Roslan Aziz — Malaysian musician, album producer, songwriter- singer; Fauziah Latiff — Malaysian singer, actress.

Malaysian Islamic Reality TV: Washing Corpses and Winning a Trip to Mecca

In June 2010, Associated Press reported: “The 10 young men have washed corpses according to Islamic rites, cried while counseling unmarried pregnant women and joined a police crackdown on teenage motorcycle racers — all before judges on national TV. A Malaysian cable station has given a reality show makeover to its Islamic programming, and it's taking this moderate Muslim-majority country by storm. The show, called "Imam Muda" or "Young Leader," is halfway through a 10-week run. With its blend of doctrine and drama, it is a natural fit for Malaysia, a Southeast Asian nation that has tried to defend its Islamic traditions while also welcoming high-tech industry and Western culture. It's these parallel strains in society that the program taps so successfully. [Source: Associated Press, June 27, 2010 /=\]

“The producers say they want to find a leader for these times, a pious but progressive Muslim who can prove that religion remains relevant to Malaysian youths despite the influence of Western pop culture. Even the prizes combine both worlds: An all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Mecca and a car. "This is not like other programs that have no religious values," says the show's chief judge, Hasan Mahmud Al-Hafiz, a former prayer leader at Malaysia's national mosque. "We have no shouting or jumping. We provide spiritual food. We're not looking for a singer or a fashion model." /=\

“In 21st century Malaysia, it's a formula that works. The producers say the show has become the Islamic-themed channel's most-watched program ever. "We try not to miss a single episode, because we find that we learn new things about our religion," says Fauziana Ismail, a 25-year-old nurse, who watches it with her husband and his parents every week. /=\

“More than 1,000 men auditioned for the show. They were made to recite prayers, given tests on Islam and asked questions on current affairs such as naming world leaders. Background checks were done to ensure none had unsavory pasts. In the end, 10 were left, including a bank officer, a farmer, a cleric and some university students. /=\

“Most of the contestants, photogenic men between 18 and 27, could pass as models. In some episodes, they appear in well-tailored suits and ties, albeit with Muslim caps on top. In others, they don traditional flowing robes, or simply fashionable slacks and shirts. "We want to prove that our young Muslim Malaysians can keep up with the times," said Izelan Basar, the show's creator and manager of the cable channel. "We chose the brightest, most devout men for this program — young men whom our female viewers now want for their husbands or sons-in-law." /=\

“The contestants are sequestered in a mosque hostel with no access to family, friends or cell phones. They spend much of their time being tutored in Islamic studies. The cameras start rolling when they're out on assignments. "I want to fulfill my responsibility to my religion and my community by being here," said Taufek Noh, a motivational speaker, during a break in filming at a mosque auditorium. The 27-year-old was allowed time off to get married on June 12. He spent only one night with his bride before being whisked back into seclusion with the other contestants. "My new wife and I are sad to be separated, but we accept that it is Allah's will for us. If it is also Allah's will for me to win, then we will be thankful," Taufek said with a confident smile. /=\

“The show isn't Malaysia's first religion-based reality show, but it has generated more public excitement than its sedate predecessors, such as "Akademi Al Quran," in which participants underwent training to recite Quranic verses. An "Imam Muda" Facebook page has drawn 25,000 fans and comments dissecting the contestants and hailing them as role models. /=\

“Besides the pilgrimage and the car, the prizes include a job as prayer leader in a major mosque, a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia, 20,000 ringgit ($6,400) in cash and a laptop. For their first major task, the contestants put on face masks and medical gowns to perform Muslim ablutions on two corpses that had gone unclaimed for weeks in a morgue. They also buried the bodies, reflecting at the cemetery on their own mortality. In another episode, tears flowed freely among the men as they provided religious counseling for residents of a women's shelter and a home for abandoned children. The show's tone is often somber. In the episode on death, the host intoned: "When our time comes, nobody can delay death by even a second. Old people die, children die. Are we ready for death?" /=\

“In the first five weeks, a three-member judging panel of religious scholars ousted only two contestants, saying their social skills and knowledge were relatively weak. Even then, it inflicted minimal anguish. After announcing one of the eliminations in an auditorium without a public audience, chief judge Hasan embraced the contestant and prayed for Allah to bless him. The other men hugged each other and wept on camera, speaking earnestly about the bond of brotherhood they had forged. /=\

Radio in Malaysia

One study in the early 2000s found that in Malaysia more people listen to the radio than watch television or read newspapers.

State-owned radio broadcaster operates multiple national networks as well as regional and local stations; many private commercial radio broadcasters and some subscription satellite radio services are available; about 55 radio stations overall (2012) [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Government-owned Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), the predominant broadcaster, operates nine national radio services and 16 regional radio services. The government also owns Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia, a religious radio broadcaster. The Voice of Malaysia (VOM) is the government’s international radio service. Malaysia also has seven commercial radio broadcasters and two university radio stations. In 2001 there were 35 AM radio stations, 391 FM radio stations, and 15 shortwave radio stations. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Malaysia has an Islamic radio station, IKIM-FM. Launched in the early 2000s and funded by the government, its features brief lectures, short prayers and short passages from the Koran but mostly broadcasts punchy, upbeat Malay-language ballads like Thank You Allah and The Highest Praise but no rock music or hip hop. On the weekends there are chat shows on international issues, stories from the Prophets life and re-enactments of sessions from the local Islamic court.

Newspapers in Malaysia

Major daily newspapers: New Strait Times, circulation, about 200,000, is linked with the government. Ot is part of the oldest newspaper group in Malaysia, which is owned by the Media Prima group, which is in turn owned by the United Malays National Organization, the leading party in the government. The Star is a feisty, more independent English-language newspaper. It is the top-selling English-language daily with a daily circulation of about 300,000 copies. Utusan Malaysia is regarded as the most influential newspaper among the Malay majority.

The Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) is the official news agency and has exclusive rights to receive and distribute news in Malaysia. In 2000, Malaysia had 31 daily newspapers with a total average circulation of 2.2 million. According to Audit Bureau of Circulations Malaysia said that in the year ending June 2008, average daily newspaper circulation stood at 2.5 million copies, down from 2.54 million copies in the previous year.

Chinese media includes six in the peninsula and eight in East Malaysia. Sin Chew Daily is the top-selling Chinese paper in the country. It not only makes money, but it is the most powerful voice in the stable of Chinese papers. Even Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein courts the paper because he needs Sin Chew's cooperation to air policies on Chinese schools. [Source: Joceline Tan, The Star, September 23, 2007]

Malaysian Newspapers Face Challenge from Online Media

In August 2009, Beh Lih Yi of AFP wrote: “Malaysia's traditional newspapers are facing a serious challenge from online news portals, which are winning a reputation for being fast and more credible than the government-friendly press. The number of Internet newspapers has mushroomed from one to eight over the past two years, with new titles appearing in Chinese, Malay and English to cater to the multicultural population. "I don't really trust the newspapers as they are controlled by the government," says engineer Ryan Kong, 30, as he clicks on the website of pioneer portal Malaysiakini to get his daily dose. "There are the cost and convenience factors, and I can get today's news today rather than wait until tomorrow for the newspaper," he said. [Source: Beh Lih Yi, AFP, August 1, 2009 ***]

“Malaysiakini began operating a decade ago, but its competitors now include the popular Malaysian Insider and the latest entrant, the Malaysian Mirror, which was launched last month. Unlike other countries where the most popular portals churn out celebrity gossip and paparazzi shots, Malaysia's top sites focus on politics, corruption allegations and serious social issues including race relations. ***

“Editors expect a challenging time ahead for mainstream newspapers and television stations which are mostly government-linked, and often viewed with suspicion by the tech-savvy younger crowd. "There is a credibility crisis with regards to what is written in mainstream media -- the level of believability among the people seems to be less," said Bernama national news agency editorial adviser Azman Ujang. ***

“The rise of online newspapers began with political turmoil in 1998 that saw Anwar Ibrahim sacked as deputy prime minister and jailed on sex and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated. Malaysians flocked to the Internet for coverage of his trial, and major political events since then have also triggered spikes in viewership. In 2008 national elections that saw the opposition -- now led by Anwar -- make stunning gains, the rise of news websites and blogs was credited as a major factor behind its success. ***

"The Internet has been lauded as the medium that actually could change the general election results. The next election, in three or four years time, will be an Internet election," said Malaysiakini chief editor Steven Gan. "Eventually you will see the Internet as the main medium for the dissemination of news and for other things here, and the traditional media will play a secondary role." ***

Audit Bureau of Circulations Malaysia said that in the year ending June 2008, average daily newspaper circulation stood at 2.5 million copies, down from 2.54 million copies in the previous year. Online media, meanwhile, have enjoyed a steady rise in readership, with Malaysiakini saying it attracted 2.0 million unique visitors a month while Malaysian Insider says it drew some 800,000. Despite their success, online news outlets mostly operate on a modest scale, with often just a handful of journalists working from cramped offices. Few have yet managed to become profitable. David Yeoh ,managing editor The Star, is optimistic however that online media will not replace newsprint in the near future. "The generation that is comfortable with the newspaper as a product is still around. It will be at least one generation -- at least 30 years -- before newspapers can become redundant here," he said.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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