Malaysia's media firms click to next page

Malaysia's media firms click to next page

MALAYSIA - If there was an unwitting winner at the recent general election in Malaysia, it would have to be the relatively unfettered new media and independent sheets favoured by Malaysians over the government-controlled mainstream newspapers.

The ground-shifts taking place in the country's English media space, after the bitterly fought election, are proof of that.

Stung by criticism of lopsided political coverage that favoured the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the country's top-selling English-language daily, The Star, is fighting back.

"We are going for more independent and bold coverage," said The Star's group chief editor, Mr Wong Chun Wai. The publicly listed media group is controlled by a BN component party, the Malaysian Chinese Association.

It has a print circulation of about 300,000, and has just revamped its online edition, which draws an average of 27 million page views a month. For the first time, The Star invited two opposition politicians to be online columnists.

"I understand the irony of writing on this platform, but in the spirit of democracy... we will have to work together without compromising our political principles," Mr Fahmi Fadzli, political secretary to opposition Pakatan Rakyat Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah Anwar, wrote in his first fortnightly online column.

The other columnist from the opposition is Mr Ong Kian Ming, an academic turned political analyst turned politician with the Democratic Action Party.

The juxtaposition of the changes in Malaysia's political and media landscape is worth noting. Media managers know this only too well.

"The rise in political activism and consciousness is a factor in the emergence of new media outlets which want to serve the new demand for news that is not lopsided," said Mr Ho Kay Tat, chief executive of The Edge Media Group, which publishes well-regarded business weekly The Edge and a financial daily in Malaysia.

The Edge in Malaysia, launched in 1994, followed eight years later by The Edge Singapore, enjoys a niche following in business circles and has a circulation of more than 20,000.

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