MEDIA AGENDA AND OWNERSHIP CONTROL: WHO DRAWS THE LINES?

Written by Erda Khursyiah Basir

Not stagnant to its common roles to inform and to educate the people, media nowadays has seen as a vital role to influence and shape people mind towards various issue. The ability of the media to create sort of news through the selection of what and not to include in their reporting, later may influences public perception and opinion.

The uppermost role of media to serve for public or society is merely not relevant as before due to the current situation whereby most of media organizations are govern by some groups or parties. Basically the main reason to have this kind of aid as well as the financial support from certain parties, is to ensure they manage to survive and able to continue their operation due to the highly competition among media established today.  Through having that kind of support, it also means media have to put their loyalty as part of the social contract.  As the media make decision to air or not to air a story, they have decided to whom they will be loyal.

Media often become as main target of certain individuals or even parties to help them to reach their objective. Therefore, instead of media itself used to create their own agenda for their own purpose, others especially stakeholders and ownership itself might use media convey and influence public for many reasons which can benefits them.

Most media nowadays work for certain parties or group or even individual. In Malaysia, while some of media work for and represent the ruling parties as well as the government (Barisan Nasional (BN) or even Umno), some of them preferred to be with opposition party (Pakatan Rakyat) for the reason to report what they perceive as contradict with their views (basically on the government side and done).  Also happened nowadays, media closely work with millionaire people or well-known cosmetic product owner for example Vida Beauty (Dato Seri Vida) and D Herbs (Dato Alif Shukri), in many forms of media no matter in television, newspaper, magazine even via online approach.

Pure objective of the media to serve for people or specifically to serve for better nations, will not remain as it is, due to the concept of ownership and stakeholders. Media often highlighted particular messages, repeatedly, as what has been determined by the ownership even advertiser who sponsored their organizations. For example in certain reality programs which sponsored by owner of cosmetic products, it many times will mentioned on the product together with the tagline such as ‘Qu Puteh and Terlajak Laris’, for the purpose to market and sell the products to the massive audience. Does its wrong and against the ethics of media? The commercialization of media and concentration of media ownership erode the public sphere and fail to provide for cultural and information needs, including the plurality of opinions and the diversity of cultural expressions and languages necessary for democracy.

Spreading media agenda now is much easy since every citizen nowadays bombarded by the computer-mediated-message such as internet, mobile phone, social media. Rather than provide them with millions story or news on what is happens all over the world, each and any sorts of news now can easily become viral through the social media in a single minute. This is where media play it role to spread their agenda as well as how to shape or frame particular issues to the public.

Agenda setting theory explains that media set the agenda for public, they tell the public what they considered as important while bury some part of the story which they perceived as unimportant. There are few contemporary issues regards to the media agenda. Firstly, media agenda may lead to the media abuse their power to conduct their task without fear or favour as they their priority now is about ownership and stakeholders. Every steps taken by the media as well as to report any news, first and foremost must get the approval from their stakeholders especially when they are dealing with political stories.

Democracy is the poorer for this reduced diversity in available media messages. By having this kind of limitation which also can be consider as barriers to perform their duty as what they supposed to be, it will indirectly lead media to continuously neglect their code of ethics such as report the truth, serve the society as well as conduct their task as a watchdog role.

Secondly, media agenda most of the time has neglect the right of society to be enough inform on particular issues as media keep silent or even kill some information which they decide not to tell the public. This actually might bring both good and bad impact, depending on what kind of situation or consequence to the society as a whole. For example while alternative media choose to highlight and sensionalise racial-based issue, some media would preferred to bury it as well as not report at all to the public for the reason to avoid public panic and to maintain the harmonious among multicultural-ethnic. Other reason by not reporting the issue is to avoid other related matters arise (secondary or tertiary issues) because of the primary issue (people take advantage to relate with the other issues). Most of the time, ethnic issues among Malaysian preferred not to report in the public, if any, it would be only on the surface for the sake to maintain a good condition among multiracial ethic in Malaysia.

Media should bring their responsibility and respect the rights of the public to be well-informed about certain issues. Therefore, in different cases and situation for example issue on air pollution due to the haze issue previously, media should play their roles to inform the public when the situation is getting worst to avoid long-term health effect among the public. If media, choose to keep inform the public that the situation is still good, but it was actually harmful to the society, they are can be considered as not responsibility towards the public right to be informed. Therefore, media agenda perceived as contribute a lot to the successfulness of the media itself, ownership and stakeholders when their published or broadcast materials get attention by the people which later result in society thought and actions.

Unfortunately, when talking about the disadvantages when media is control by certain parties especially the ownership, people can’t deny that it has affects the independence of the mass media.  No doubt, media agenda has brought significant impact to the social and cultural as well. The way media framed or portray certain issue will influence the society and perhaps in long terms, the culture also effect.

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