Friday, September 22, 2006

Does Bernama Need A 24-hour News Channel?

The government has yet to decide on the introduction of a 24-hour news channel to be run by the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) because of the prohibitive cost involved, Deputy Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Thursday. He said a study by Bernama showed that the government had to come up with RM100 million to set up the proposed Malaysian News Network, which would function along the lines of Cable News Network (CNN). "Therefore, the government has not made a decision yet whether the project is feasible and should go ahead or otherwise," he said.

Sometimes our 'thinkers' in the government come out with great ideas which are either not practical, duplicate existing facilities or promoted merely to keep up with the Joneses or is it the Lees? It is laughable that the government even contemplated establishing a CNN style news channel. Or did they get their ilham from Al Jazeera?

It must be kept in mind that successfully running a 24-hours news channel is no joke. Even if the money is available it simply cannot compensate for the utter lack of talent and genius required to manage one. In any case the country already has a slowly stirring giant in RTM which serves the dual purpose of 'infotainmen' and as a massive government propaganda machine. If that outlet itself has been badly managed and is now crying out for audiences and advertising revenue, how can we reasonably expect a 24-hours news channel to succeed?

For sure the government will want to have the only say in the day to day running of this channel. They will introduce all the bad habits and practices acquired from other government departments, bow to the wishes of the religious zealots, xenophobes, language bigots, nationalists, chauvinists of every bent, impose race and religion quotas on the staff as well as the programmes to be aired and will finally end up as exciting as RTM is today.

Sounds a tad pessimistic? Sorry, but when it comes to certain subjects like this, I simply can't help it. But what about you? Do you think a 24-hours news channel, given the current mindset of our government, is a workable proposition?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No way a 24-hr news channel by Malaysia can make money. There is not enough Advertising money to make this happen. Market is just too small.

Al Jazeera worked because it targetted the entire Middle East cable tv market and was allowed to operate freely. A much much bigger market with little competition.

11:46 AM GMT+8  
Blogger PabloPabla said...

They should allocate the money to increase the police force's salary instead.

11:51 AM GMT+8  
Blogger walski69 said...

No, you're not being pessimistic - just realistic. There's no way such a thing would work, particularly if the government gets involved with the day-to-day, as you've mentioned.

What Bernama could possibly do is a tie-up with Astro, which already has a sort-of/kind-of news set-up - Bernama provides the newsfeeds, Astro does the rest.

If that proves successful (and it will take some time), then they can start to look at expanding a-la CNN. But independence of viewpoint and operations is a must for a news network to succeed.

Nobody would want to watch another government propaganda mouthpiece 24/7 - if that's the real intention, then it's best to spend the money elsewhere.

2:42 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

anonymous, while I agree about the size of the market, when did such 'obtuse' economic facts ever make our chaps stop and think?
PabloPabla, great idea! But what's in it for our big shots? No cut of the revenues, ample publicity opportunities etc.
walski69, your points noted. Astro would leap at the offer I'm sure. If there's more money to be made, Astro will be ready to go out on a limb for Bernama.

3:04 PM GMT+8  
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2:59 AM GMT+8  

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