Don’t bar political parties from owning media: Publisher

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 8): Political parties should not be prevented from owning media companies and should be free to compete for readers, says The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd publisher and group chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat.

“I don’t believe in having this restriction. I believe that anyone who wants to invest or to start a media company should have the right to do it,” he said in an interview with The Breakfast Grille show host Joyce Goh today.

“Why should we say that political parties cannot own media? Let everyone compete and ultimately the public will decide which media works and which media does not work rather than restrict anyone from owning media,” Ho said in the interview on BFM Business Radio.

“For us, we have always seen ourselves as being very independent because we are not controlled by any political parties. We have always been able to operate independently,” he said.

The issue has been in focus following a statement by Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo that political parties should stay away from owning media companies in order to improve the quality of journalism in the country.

“I have always been clear on this — we should avoid ownership of media by political parties but of course the decision to outlaw it has to be decided by this Government," Gobind had said in August.

On the outlook for the media industry, Ho said that media companies in Malaysia have been affected by the digital disruption due to the emergence of global tech giants like Facebook, Google and YouTube. In addition, their performance has been dampened by the cyclical downturn.

“Some of our leading media companies like The Star and Media Prima have had their market cap drop by about 70% in the last two years,” he said.

“Astro is also beginning to see the effect, so the challenges are tremendous for media companies in Malaysia right now,” he said.

Malaysian news media companies are hurting, said Ho.

Going forward, the print media will still be around but the Malaysian market could not support many titles, he said.

“I can’t imagine and fear the day where all news media companies in Malaysia die and close shop because they cannot survive the onslaught of Google and Facebook.

“That will be a disaster and sad day for Malaysia,” he added.