The Heat Malaysia column – Malaysia’s shrinking media scene 

A news piece in a local portal caught my eye, detailing the plight of the media sector, particularly journalists.
If you have yet to notice, there has definitely been a shrinking media industry in Malaysia. In fact, this trend will not be turning around anytime soon, and it did not start with The Malaysian Insider.
In fact, I believe this trend started in 2014, with The NutGraph shutting down.
The now defunct portal launched in 2008 went through the donation path, collecting RM41,503.83 by January 2010 to keep it running an entire year, after losing its investors. And then it was basically running on fumes for four years till it shut down.
We also saw the shutting down of The Heat (later The Heat Online), The Rakyat Post (and return), and also Malaysiakini’s business news portal, KiniBiz. The Heat Online was relaunched as The Heat Malaysia. What lies ahead?
On top of that, news channels for television also shrunk – which includes ABN News and also Bloomberg Malaysia.
At the same time, it seems that even the pro-government media are facing the same problem.
Case in point – Utusan Malaysia has gone on the record through the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) asking for its owners to let it go if payments are delayed.
There have also been rumours that even the official government media channels – Bernama, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and even listed Media Prima Bhd are having trouble retaining, let alone recruiting staff.
September 2016 saw even the English daily New Straits Times rumoured to be going fully digital.
Unfortunately, with the growing ability to cut out media as the middle guy in advertising through social media which is less (much less) of a cost centre, money is hard to come by.
There are models that work. I’m sure Astro is in fact keeping its Awani News in check. Other than that, only ones still keeping in the black thus far are The Star and Malaysiakini.
The latter due to its subscription based pay wall, the former due to being able to be funded largely through advertising.
But this is honestly a worldwide trend that even affects the US and even the UK.
In the US, paywalls are being erected in an effort to get people to pay for sustainable news organisations. The Boston Globe – made famous through Oscar winning movie Spotlight – has a five free stories a day limit before asking people to subscribe.
At the same time, you have the New York Times also moving towards subscriptions, while papers such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have kept themselves exclusively by subscription only.
Meanwhile in the UK, The Independent decided to go fully digital as well and have stopped publishing paper. As much as it is a way for news agencies to “go green”, I doubt that this was the case.
So, how do other countries maintain a thriving media industry? Shall we look at Denmark for a bit?
According to their Ministry of Culture website, there is in fact a “main and supplementary scheme as well as a three-year transition fund for media that obtain less in total aid from the production aid scheme than under the previous distribution of aid scheme”.
How much is this, in total?
Oh, €52 million over a period of three years, but not amounting to more than 35 per cent of the editorial cost.
See, other parts of the world see media as an industry worth supporting in its infancy – which is why I don’t blame Malaysiakini getting funds from the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Journalism and news aren’t cheap, but it ensures an informed public. An informed public makes informed decisions. Thus, it is branded the Fourth Estate – for its ability to influence the general public.
It should in fact be part of our culture to have a thriving media industry, but with no assistance from the government (in fact, our government is a hindrance), the media industry will continue languishing and remaining dependent on others for income – case in point, political parties in some cases.
And that makes it a culture of one-sided information that will eventually lead to disinformation and in the end – total bias and bad decisions.
The Danes rightfully point out: “Media policy is thus regarded as an integral part of Danish cultural policy.”
Malaysians need to ask themselves – what is our culture when it comes to media?

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The Malay Mail Online: Can Malaysian families afford a homemaker?

APRIL 29 — In the past week, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) once again raised the issue of how wives joining the workforce would neglect families.

For those who may not know, our labour figures show that 52 per cent of Malaysian women are participating in our workforce these days, with further encouragement by government agencies to increase that number further.

That being said, Isma’s argument is from the rationale that there needs to be someone to care for the family, particularly children require a mother to raise them.

This isn’t the first time they have raised this point and so, we could say their stance has been secure — as is my personal stance. And since the head of Isma’s women’s wing is in fact the daughter of economists, I am certain she understands the argument against women taking a passive role in economics.

It is a valid point to say that someone has to care for the kids, but to say that families need to single out moms as homemaker is wrong, particularly in current day realities where we have single parent families and are stuck in what Massachusetts junior senator Elizabeth Warren has explained as the “two-income trap”.

For the unfamiliar, Warren’s book details how the market was affected with women joining the workforce, thus the prices of assets increased to the point of normalising the need for two breadwinners for each family.

And in Malaysia, the economics of this argument rings true when you have official household incomes averaging more than RM6,000 and yet official wage figures averaging a lot less than that.

In simpler terms, our current economy — household income versus the cost of living — does not make it viable for a single income family to live a prosperous, less challenging life.

Of course, it is a worthy goal to aim for, no less, to have someone as a full-time homemaker, but it also raises multiple questions. For one, I would contend why the government would have to issue out scholarships and student loans to women who refuse to join the workforce since it would be counterproductive.

Unless, of course, Isma advocates wives to then start up cottage industries or micro-businesses for a secondary income stream instead of just depending on husbands to become sole breadwinners.

For myself personally, I believe both genders should be given the same consideration when it comes to parenting responsibilities. If the moms so chooses to join the workforce on flexible hours, then the fathers should receive the same.

Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with giving both parents paternity leave to learn how to care for a newborn.

This is the evolution of society itself these days in which there is no gender stereotyping of who can raise a child and take on the role of homemaker better. We have moved on from the concept of women knowing how to cook and clean while men go out and know how to earn money.

In fact I would contend that even in the history of the state of Kelantan and perhaps Negri Sembilan, for ages those roles were reversed.

But at the same time, if there are those with the belief that they should become dedicated homemakers, that is alright for them to do so as long as it doesn’t impact anyone else. That is basically liberalism — allowing such a choice.

Having been raised in a family where at times there was only a single income stream in the 1990s, even then it was not as easy as it sounds and sacrifices had to be made. And honestly I believe it will be tougher for this current new generation of families who have seen wages not tying up with the cost of living.

That being said, I wouldn’t advocate it in our country for a simple reason — women tend to be more level headed in Malaysia compared to men. We have a higher number of women entering and graduating from tertiary education, proving they’ve outperformed men from an intellectual standpoint.

I would like to see them fight for equal wages, breaking glass ceilings in the corporate world and still having the ability to multitask raising a family while still earning an income worthy of their contributions.

I have seen such women in action with awe, thriving in whatever they choose to do. And it is my personal belief that we need these individuals to lead us into the future back into prosperity.

And while Isma believes that there is no greater calling for married women than to become homemakers, I humbly disagree by believing women and men should have equal opportunities to prove they can be more than their gender stereotypes.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online. – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/can-malaysian-families-afford-a-homemaker-hafidz-baharom#sthash.HmdI2fer.dpuf

The Heat Malaysia – PAKATAN REPEATING GE13 MISTAKES IN S’WAK

The new Pakatan Harapan seems set to repeat the very same mistakes that took place in the last general election, though this time the coalition cannot blame it on PAS.
Reported in the news over the weekend, both DAP and PKR are expecting to clash against one another in five state seats come May 7 — Tasik Biru, Mambong, Simanggang, Bukit Semuja and Mulu.
Adding to this, the PKR is avoiding any seats contested by PAS, the very member it kicked out of Pakatan Harapan to favour Amanah.
Thus, the first question to raise is simply what is going on?
Does the PKR still have ties with PAS that it will not deny, much to the criticism of its allies in the new alliance? This question has been raised before with the continuing members of the Islamist party still serving as part of the Selangor government.
Secondly, why are PKR and DAP contesting against one another?
While it is true that both Sabah and Sarawak are not the same as the politics we have here in the peninsula, it is still a necessity for the three parties — DAP, PKR and Amanah — to strategise and show a united front for both states and federal levels.
This is contrary to what is happening in Sarawak right now.
Historically, the Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat was the first blown to smithereens compared with that on the peninsula, when the state DAP chapter decided that PAS was deviating from the common framework the three Opposition parties set up.
A three-way split in votes — two in favour of the individual opposition parties — could sabotage the win for the pro-government parties.
To have PKR and DAP butting heads now, brings back the memories of how the contests for seats during the last General Election showed the questioning public whether there was a problem between the then Pakatan Rakyat allies.
It shows us watching that perhaps the concept of an alliance is not exactly gelling as well as anyone hoped for the national opposition parties.
And we cannot exactly call these “teething problems” because they’ve practically coexisted for two general elections (somewhat) — a decade already and tripartite ties have existed even before that under the Barisan Alternatif dating back to 1999.
Thus, perhaps it would be good for everyone for the Pakatan Harapan to come out and explain just what is going on in Sarawak as a united front. Because right now, it truly reads that there is perhaps a different concept of unity coming out from each party.
It is a necessary question to ponder right now, especially with a general election coming up in two years and we may see such shenanigans come up again. Till then, these questions need to be answered.
Even with a common framework, is there a common organisation structure among DAP, PKR and Amanah for Pakatan Harapan?
Will they be looking towards introducing such a common framework in the future, in order to come up with a proper shadow cabinet now, or even next year, or even ever?
Will Pakatan Harapan be ensuring that there will be no seat clashes among themselves for seats contested on either state or parliamentary seats in the future, or will we see the same issue raised again in Terengganu and Penang — which was what happened in 2013?
These three questions are important in order to ensure that the path towards a Pakatan victory come 2018 is even possible, to remove the excuses questioning their ability to govern (still no shadow cabinet till now) on a federal level or even to not cause petty power struggle issues to cause the loss of entire states.
And no, you can’t use the governance of one state to compare running an entire country, dream what you may.
Simply put, regardless how poorly Najib does, until there is a proper, united coalition by the Opposition parties, they may continue to dream of remaining with that label for another decade — harsh as that is. 

Letter – Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa

Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa

by Hafidz Baharom

Currently, a spate of cases on hysteria in SMK Pangkalan Chepa 2, Kota Bharu, has the nation wondering how to deal with such a situation. Insofar, authorities have decided to close down the school after a “black figure” was spotted on camera. The picture is currently making its rounds on social media.

The news has gotten international press recognition, most recently being covered by UK paper The Telegraph detailing the issue with testimony of teachers as well as students.

But for us back here in Malaysia, let’s have a flashback to May 2015. Continue reading “Letter – Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa”

On ageism and professional comments — Hafidz Baharom

MARCH 31 — The recent comments by Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid on how Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s (MAB) cabin crew brought to mind an incident between Clare Booth, 35, and Dorothy Parker, then an elderly socialite.

See, Booth and Parker apparently went to a social event in which both of them tried to exit through the same door. Being somewhat of an ageist, Booth stepped aside and held the door open for Parker, saying “age before beauty”.

Nonchalantly, Parker graciously exited before giving a stinging retort.

Pearls before swine.

On Wednesday, Nurulhidayah decided it was fair game to criticise MAS on Instagram, and this was highlighted on a news portal. In her post on the social media, she commented on chewing gum on the seats. Well, this was acceptable because that is rather disgusting.

In fact, I’m sure MAB could look into their cleanup crew’s performance to ensure the upholstery on their seats are properly cared for.

But here’s the thing; what did the age of the cabin crew have to do with anything?

Apparently Nurulhidayah, who is supposedly the Head of Corporate Communications for a national affordable housing company Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, decided that it was fair game to bring ageism as an issue with cabin crews.

Now if I may ask — with most of us here being Asians and all — when did we begin to have such an insolent and arrogant generation of yuppies?

Calling in someone’s age no longer makes it a professional critique in a workplace as she said in defending herself.

And yes, such insolence and arrogance does bring into question how Nurulhidayah was raised, especially considering that her father is our deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
In fact, I have always thought the reason we were served by “experienced” cabin crews for long haul flights was because they were veterans.

This is the fact I’ve experienced flying Qatar Airways, British Airways, KLM and even Japanese Airlines.

At the same time, I would ask everyone to consider the scenarios you are putting these flight attendants in.
A crude job description they are tasked with for long haul flights is to take care of sometimes more than 200 strangers in a cramped space over the span of more than ten hours in the most professional manner you can give.
Perhaps Nurulhidayah would like to take a challenge and try being a flight attendant for a week — being cramped with a flight attendant to passenger ratio of larger than 1:15 including chain smokers like myself who have no access to nicotine, random drunkards who insist on having liquor constantly and even the ones who ask for water every half an hour — all this in a span of 14 to 18 hours with nowhere to run.

Also, no vaping.

And upon landing, still be able to freeze a smile on your face, not a hair out of place and wish everyone well.  

And while women are not my thing, I will always be amazed that MAS flight attendants can be “old” and still look good in a kebaya.

Flight attendants truly go to hell and back on each and every flight because they have to treat total strangers professionally. While there are passengers who are mollified by being waited on by such a way, there are those who believe they maybe deserved to be pampered even more.

There are a lot of things that can be suggested to better MAB, from Chef Wan’s comment on the “naked nasi lemak” which falls on the inflight caterers and the recent incident which cause their London flight to divert to Manchester.

Nurulhidayah could’ve been professional and left it at how the plane needed proper cleaning.

Instead, all she proved was that parents and status don’t breed class.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

A supplementary budget in March?!

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Spring is in the air, and our government is already asking parliament for more money!

In a rather weird moment, Putrajaya is now asking Parliament for more money via a supplementary bill for RM3.3 billion. This brings the amount of cash being allocated for 2016 to a whopping RM270 billion – within three months of the new year.

Continue reading “A supplementary budget in March?!”

Gag the Cabinet for confusing everyone?

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It is oftentimes said that one of the reasons given in censoring films, books and even news portals is the fact that these elements can “confuse” Malaysians. For some reason or another, it seems that telling Malaysians that heuristic logics of merely yes or no being insufficient is considered a crime. Continue reading “Gag the Cabinet for confusing everyone?”

It’s not just about “learning overseas” – Hafidz Baharom

The argument over whether or not we should send Malaysians overseas for education under government scholarship is currently raging.

As revealed yesterday, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said pointed out that the government managed to save RM240 million this year by opting out of sending 744 students overseas.

Instead, these students will be educated locally in both private and public universities.

Continue reading “It’s not just about “learning overseas” – Hafidz Baharom”