In this day and age, societies from all over the world tend to rely too much on the media and its shenanigans. Media, in its various platforms hold all the cards when it comes to disseminating information, knowledge, or messages. The dissemination of information from the media would vary, according to the explicit and implicit rules laid down by the ones governing the media organization.
Democratic societies are fixated on protecting freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Such societies would be made up of more diverse mix of public and privately owned media outlets offering a variety of arts, news, information, and entertainment (Croteau, Hoynes, Milan, 2012). Therefore, media ownership is such crucial concern. People require the media to always retain their moral responsibility towards the society, as media play such important roles in informing the public and shaping public perception.
The mechanism of control generally exercised by media proprietors is through the appointment of editors, “who become the proprietor’s ‘voice’ within the newsroom, in order to ensure that journalistic independence conforms to the preferred editorial line” (McNair, 1994). Simply put, the ones who own the media hold the power to set the course of actions and principles of the media through its editorial line. Media could be covering up scandalous issues or disseminating false allegations whenever it is deemed necessary by its owner.
PATTERNS OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP
In 1972, a greater grip on the printed press was implemented. The reign of foreign ownership over Malaysian newspapers was ended. A developing nation need full control over its media in order to shape its public in a way they see fit.
The media ownership in Malaysia was initially government-based. The Straits Times Press Group, whose major shareholders was Singaporean, was initially bought by PERNAS (Perbadanan Nasional Berhad), and later transferred over to an UMNO investment company called Fleet Holdings. UMNO, as the ruling party during that time, possesses major stakes in media ownership. Basically, the government has such strong choke hold over mainstream media through its associates and subsidiaries.
For example, UMNO holds controlling interests in TV3,New Straits Times Press (NSTP), The Malay Mail, Berita Harian and the Chinese daily, ShinMin Daily News. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has its controlling interests in The Star and the Chinese daily, Tong Bao, while MIC has interests in three Tamil dailies – Tamil Nesan,Thinamani and Tamil Osai as well as in TV3 (Balraj-Ambigapathy, 1997).
Then, in 1983, privatization of media came into action. As a matter of fact, privatization of TV3 is the initial media ownership transfer to private sector. TV3 was licensed in 1983 to Sistem Televisyen (M) Berhad (STMB). Forty-per cent of the STMB stock was held by Fleet Group, which is UMNO’s holding company. Holding more stock ownership than any other single entity, Fleet Group had the right to select the remaining ownership partners (Gomez & K. S., 1999). In turn, TV3 in owns MEGA-TV, a MMDS “cable” provider (Nain & Mustafa, 1998).
In 1994, a television broadcast license was granted to Melewar Corporation and Utusan Melayu Berhad, giving them rights to operate Metrovision. Unfortunately, Metrovison was having a hard time to stay afloat. It went off air for a while before finally calling it quits.
Later, Ananda Krishnan was issued a license in 1995 to operate MEASAT. MEASAT in turn launched ASTRO, Malaysia’s digital direct broadcast satellite service (Shriver, 2003).
Natseven TV Sdn Bhd (NTV7), Malaysia’s most recent entry into the privately owned free-to-air television market, was licensed in 1998. Datuk (Dr.) Effendi Norwawi the Chairman of ENCORP group, which owns NTV7, serves as the Chairman of NTV7. Norwawi now also serves as the Minister of Agriculture (Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture, 2002).