Not going to take the words of the Devil anymore? But many others would still do.
“So, what difference can you make?” The cynic in you asks.
Making meaningful changes in politics is far more easier and safer than many people imagined.
Here is one way that you can make a difference by staying at home. Your weapon to advance the cause for clean, free and fair elections? Just your television and video recorder (VHS/VCD/DVD).
Do you remember Tengku Razaleigh’s Kadazan headwear that cost him perhaps the premiership? The newspapers and television showed the images again and again into the voters’ mind.
(Those were the days of Wan Zaleha, whose picture was chosen here just to refresh our memories of the 80s and the 90s, not to implicate or suggest that she has played any active role in those spinning.)
Media, especially the broadcasting media, in Malaysia are highly monopolized. All free-to-view private television channels – TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9 – are owned by Media Prima, which is in turn controlled by UMNO.
You can expect these channels to be very biased. RTM too is unlikely to remember the fact that at least 36% of its funders are opposition supporters that it has a duty to provide fair reporting.
What can we do?
We can gather evidence of their bias, document it and even measure it.
In 2004, according to a study by a media scholar Wong Kok Keong, 73% of news items on TV1 prime time English news, 64% on TV3 and 53% on NTV7 were focused on or positive towards the BN.
Why? What differences does media monitoring make?
Firstly, it provides pressure on the media outlets. Hard evidences embarrass them that they may be forced to at least appear a bit more professional.
Secondly, it may enlightens the voters that the news they receive from TVs are confirmed – scientifically if you like – to be biased. This reduces the credibility of the biased outlets. Measurement allows the public to differentiate different media outlets by their degree of bias and to penalize them via moral sanction or boycott accordingly.
Thirdly, it serves as the basis for long term reform. The more hard evidence of media biases are collected, the more powerful the advocacy for media reform will be. Reform is a marathon, not a 100-meter sprinting. If you want reform, you must collect as much hard evidence as possible.
How? Can I do it?
Yes, you can. As said in the beginning of the post, all you need is a TV set, a Video Recorder and you. Charter2000-Aliran, CIJ and WAMI are working to do media monitoring for the coming elections. If you are willing to help, we will provide simple training. Since we are recording the news clips, the actual rating/coding can be done later if there are uncertainties.
If allowed by resources, the monitoring groups may issue a daily report with figures on media reporting in the previous day. So we will have something like a next-day index. And of course, individual monitors can publish their qualitative comments at the media monitor website and their own blogs.
What? How many television channels are we targeting?
We would like to aim as many (channels and languages) as possible but we are realistic. It would be great if you can help us to monitor one TV news programme a day which normally would not take more than one hour.
It is a very small investment of your time and effort but we would need some commitment. Selective monitoring will have little credibility so our volunteers must commit their time throughout the 2-3 weeks (beginning on the dissolution of the parliament or its announcement, ending on the polling day).
That’s all? Really?
Yes, it’s just that simple. You can remain anonymous (to the public) if you like.
Making a difference by sitting at home, no rain, no traffic jam.
And 10 years down the road, you may point to professional TV news and tell your children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren proudly: “I helped bringing about the changes.”
So, would you put your TV and Video Recorder up to make a difference?
Would you like to be part of the history like many unsung heroes who “contribute a verse” of their own when “the powerful play goes on”?
Would you seize the weeks that come only once every 4-5 years?
If you would, drop a comment or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.