A Survey Of National Media In 10 Countries Of Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asian Media:Patterns of Production andConsumptionA survey of national media in 10 countries ofSoutheast AsiaBy Jeremy Wagstaff

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTIONTable of ContentsI. Introduction . 7II. Country highlights . 121. Burma . 121.1 Television . 131.2 Radio . 141.3 Print . 151.4 Online . 171.5 Telecommunications . 191.6 Journalists . 191.7 External reporting . 202. Cambodia . 222.1 Television . 222.1.1 TV technologies .2.2 Radio .2.3 Print .2.4 Online .2.5 Telecommunications .2.6 Journalists .3. Indonesia .3.1 Context .24242527283032323.1.1 From State oversight to politicalinfluence . 323.1.2 A return to censorship? . 343.2 Television . 343.2.1 Providers . 343.2.2 Content and consumption . 353.2.3 TV Technologies .3.3 Radio .3.4 Print .3.4.1 Consumption .373839393.4.2 Players . 403.5 Telecommunications and internet . 40MEDIA PROGRAM3

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION3.5.1 Telephones . 403.5.2 Internet . 413.5.3 Online . 424. Laos .4.1 Limited reach .4.2 Journalism .4.3 Television .4.4 Radio .4.5 Print .4.6 Telecoms and internet .5. Malaysia .5.1 Context .5.1.1 Bias .464648495050515353535.1.2 Censorship . 545.1.3 Ownership . 555.1.4 Consumption . 555.2 Television . 555.2.1 TV consumption . 565.2.2 Digital television . 575.2.3 Direct-To-Home Satellite Broadcasting . 575.2.4 IPTV .5.3 Radio .5.3.1 Radio consumption .5.4 Print .5.5 Telecommunications and internet .5.6 Online .5.6.1 News online .5.7 Mobile access .6. The Philippines .6.1 Balance and danger .6.2 Consumption .6.3 Television .6.3.1 Digital television .458585959616465676969707172OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION6.46.5Radio .Print .6.5.1 Consumption .6.6 Telecommunications and internet .727273746.6.1 Cellular phones . 746.76.6.2 Internet . 75Online . 767. Singapore . 807.1 Television . 827.1.1 Mobile TV, IPTV, web TV .Radio .Print .7.3.1 Consumption .7.4 Online .7.27.382838384848. Thailand . 898.1 Polarisation, bias and delayed reform . 898.2 Consumption . 898.3 Television . 908.4 Radio . 928.5 Print . 928.6 Telecommunications . 948.7 Online . 958.8 Social media . 969. Timor-Leste . 999.1 Language . 999.2 Journalism . 1009.3 Consumption . 1009.4 Telecommunications . 1029.5 Television . 1049.5.1 Resources . 1049.6 Radio . 1059.7 Print . 1059.8 Online . 10610. Vietnam . 107MEDIA PROGRAM5

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION10.1 Television .10.2 Radio .10.3 Print .10.4 Online .10.5 Bloggers .10.6 Telecommunications .Annex 1: Regional Data and Figures .Annex 2: List of Abbreviations .Annex 3: List of Companies mentioned .Annex 4: List of Tables and Charts .6108109109111114114117122125127OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION

INTRODUCTIONI. I NTRODUCTIONThis report is an overview of national media in 10 of the 11 countries of SoutheastAsia, looking at the kind and variety of news and information that are available to thepublic on a national scale.It is not intended to be comprehensive, given the constraints of time and resources,and while I have attempted to make entries as up-to-date as possible, I have had to relyon information that has no doubt already been overtaken by events. I apologise inadvance for such shortcomings and would welcome comments or corrections. I amgrateful to all those who helped via interviews, data and comments; many of you askedto remain nameless, so not everyone is cited in the footnotes.Finding common themes in a region so disparate is hard. Perhaps the most obvioustheme is that each country is so different that cookie-cutter approaches to any sort ofendeavour, whether commercial, political, social or developmental, are likely to facesignificant challenges. The region spans some of the most repressive regimes and someof the most open, some of the most advanced countries technologically and some ofthe least developed, some of the most vibrant media landscapes and some of the mostconstrained.That said, I would venture the following observations:Online is the new undergroundWith the possible exception of Laos, journalists, bloggers and media practitioners havefound ways to circumvent restrictions on news reporting, intimidation and censorshipin all the countries surveyed here. From the anonymous stringers feeding stories toBurma’s Mizzima and Irrawaddy to the bloggers of Vietnam, news finds a way out,whether the restrictions are technological, legal or physical. Indeed, in some countriestraditional media are in danger of becoming irrelevant as political debate, the exchangeof views and dissident voices go online.The Internet is the new business modelThe internet is rapidly changing the media landscape by re-defining what media are.Malaysiakini has not only established itself as a respected outlet; it has offered a modelof subscription-based journalism that has inspired others outside the country. Webonly outlets in Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore have also challenged the traditionalmodel of media publishing.MEDIA PROGRAM7

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTIONChart 1. Internet users in Southeast Asia, breakdown by country(% of population)Source: World BankA survey of the most popular domestic websites in Thailand, Philippines andIndonesia, for example, indicates that, at least for now, news websites dominate. Thehighlighted websites are all home-grown news sites.Social is the new newsWhile this high interest is impressive, it’s perhaps already being superseded by anothertrend: the rise of the social network. In Indonesia, for example, there are more than 12million registered users of Facebook; Most of those have joined in the past six to eightmonths. The information shared on these networks challenges not only the traditionalnotion of newsmakers, but also the definition of news itself.1The cellphone is the new computer (and newspaper)The cellphone is only going to accelerate the above trends. Southeast Asia has longbeen the region most willing to embrace mobile technology, partly because of the pentup demand created by poor land-line infrastructure in the 1980s and 1990s.From Short Message Service (SMS) in the Philippines and Indonesia to the rapidadoption of social networking on BlackBerry phones, for many Southeast Asians thecellphone has long been their most prized possession and, in many cases, their primary18Facebook data, accessed November 2009.OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION

INTRODUCTIONaccess point to the Internet. As 3.5G (and 4G/WiMAX) spreads around the region,this love affair will continue, reshaping the media landscape further.Chart 2. Mobile cellular subscriptions in Southeast Asia, breakdown by country(% of population)Source: World BankTelevision is still the main pipeThat said, television is still the main, if not only, source of political information formany Southeast Asians. Newspapers either do not reach them or are too expensive.Radio is often not sufficiently compelling. Only Burma sits low in the water for TVpenetration, and even there both viewer and provider find a way past the obstacles.MEDIA PROGRAM9

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTIONChart 3. TV Households in Southeast Asia, breakdown by country(% of total households)Source: World BankBut while the content and choice on Southeast Asian television has grown over the past15 years, television channels too often remain in the hands of a self-interested politicalelite, and, at least on a national scale, there’s been little in the way of public servicebroadcasting to challenge it. The ongoing Thai experiment will be an interesting one towatch; Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)’s satellite broadcasts into Burma are another.New divides of access to informationThese are all positives. But, while the rise of the internet and mobile telephony hashelped circumvent infrastructural and political barriers in the flow of information, it isalso creating new divides of access to information, between countries in the region, andwithin them:10 Developing vs developed Urban vs rural Middle vs lower class Young vs old Mobile vs landline or no phones Internet vs no Internet Broadband vs dialup Quality broadband vs low quality broadbandOPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION

INTRODUCTIONWhile mobile phone signals cover, for example, an average of 89 per cent of Asia’spopulation, there are still some 184 million rural inhabitants estimated to be beyondthe range of a mobile phone signal, including 40 million in Burma, 25 million inVietnam and 22 million in Indonesia. Meanwhile Malaysia and Thailand boast highrural coverage.2Broadband, meanwhile, is developing mainly in the “profitable cities and intercitycorridors”, leaving behind both provincial and rural dwellers, but also those lowincome groups in urban areas. In 2007, an average of less than 5 per cent of thepopulation of low-income economies was connected to broadband networks – andthose were mainly in urban centres.3Questioning the quality of internet connections in the face of such disparity may seemacademic, but as web-based media move beyond text and image towards video andother bandwidth-intensive content, a divide is appearing between those countries thathave and which lack infrastructure able to manage today’s applications.A study by the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, for example, listedSingapore top in the region for the quality of its broadband. That was, however, in thethird of five tiers, behind Hong Kong, Taiwan, and much of Europe. Singapore wasstill way ahead of other Southeast Asian countries, with Thailand, Malaysia and thePhilippines grouped in the middle of the next tier (“Below today’s applicationthreshold”). Indonesia and Vietnam were bottom of the tier.4 Overcoming thesedivides will be critical to the next phase of Southeast Asia’s media evolution.2International Telecommunication Union, Measuring ICTs in villages and rural areas, Geneva,2008.3World Bank, IC4D 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact, pp. 5-6, available online C4D/0,,contentMDK:22229759 menuPK:5870649 pagePK:64168445 piPK:64168309 theSitePK:5870636,00.html (accessed 13 January2010). While such reports focus on the development aspects of such divides, the gap is also aninformational one.4Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, University of Oviedo, Broadband Quality Study2009, available online BQS%202009%20final.doc (accessed 13January 2010).MEDIA PROGRAM11

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTIONII. C OUNTRYHIGHLIGHTS1. B URMAAll media outlets are either owned by the Government or censored by them, creatingwhat AMIC’s country report calls a “culture that promotes self-censorship”.5But this summary conceals a much more dynamic and complex picture. While Statemedia predominate, there are both vibrant independent printed media and anunderground audience for media from outside the country, reflecting both Burma’slong literary tradition and a continuing appetite for credible news.5L. Ho, Myanmar in Asian Communication Handbook 2008, Asia Media Information andCommunication Centre (AMIC), Singapore, p 319.12OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION

BURMA1.1 TelevisionChart 4. TV households in Burma (% of total households), 2003–2005Television came late to Burma – in 1980 – and for the first five years was limited toYangon and surrounding townships. As a means of information it is limited by the factthat only a small percentage of households have a television set. That only 10 per centof the country’s territory has electricity is also a factor. This is not to say that Burmesedon’t have access to television sets – sharing them with neighbours, via communalviewing teashops and guesthouses, or by paid viewing in rural areas.6Indeed, while the government’s television channels are the only official sources of news,increasingly Burmese are turning to satellite television from abroad for their news,despite having to walk long distances to watch it – and facing the risk of being caught.7The British-established Burma Broadcasting Service was renamed Myanmar Radio andTelevision (MRTV) in 1997. It remains under tight government control. Most of itsprogramming centres on “the government’s achievements, army men who singpatriotic songs, and heavily censored news”.8 While the official channels carry excerptsfrom CNN, they are always delayed to give the censors time to check the programs’content first.There are two main TV networks: TV Myanmar, which is operated by the MyanmarRadio and Television, and TV Myawaddy, the army-run network, launched in 1995.MRTV launched its first television channel in 1981. By 2005 it had 195 relay stations.6Interview via email with Khin Maung Win, Deputy Director with DVB, November 2009.7Interview with the Thailand-based Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, October 2009.8Interview with Bertil Lintner, cit.MEDIA PROGRAM13

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MEDIA: PATTERNS OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTIONIn 2001, MRTV launched an English-language channel, MRTV-3 or Myanmar TVInternational, broadcasting government news via satellite 17 hours a day domestically,and eight hours a day in Europe and the U.S. A web-based streaming version waslaunched in 2002 (www.mrtv3.net.mm), followed by an online newspaper in 2003.Two other channels, MRTV-4 and MRTV-5, have been launched – MRTV-4 in 2006in a joint venture between MRTV and the privately held Forever Group – under thecontrol of the Ministry of Information, apparently to counter local consumption ofsatellite TV, in particular DVB, a Norway-based exile channel. (See below)Myawaddy Television is less news-focused, showing more music programs than thechannel run by the Ministry of Information.Since the 2007 uprising, the government has tried to crack down on Burmese watchingforeign television via satellite. In early 2008 the government announced a 166-foldincrease in the satellite TV licence fee. Despite such restrictions, satellite dishes arebecoming more common all over Burma. These are tuned to international channelssuch as CNN and BBC. VOA has, since February 2009, aired a TV news program onSunday morning and then repeated it through the week. VOA estimates that 12 percent of urban households have satellite dishes.9Most interesting of these foreign channels is a station belonging to the exile groupDemocratic Voice of Burma (DVB), launched in 2005 and telecasting from Londonvia satellite, aiming to reach 10 million people. It is the first independent Burmese TVstation in history.10 Its content is not exclusively news or commentary; shows cove

still way ahead of other Southeast Asian countries, with Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines grouped in the middle of the next tier (“Below today’s application threshold”). Indonesia and Vietnam were bottom of the tier.4 Overcoming these divides will be critical to the next phase of Southeast Asia’s media evolution.

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