Friday, February 26, 2010

Easily Said...

I heard that before...

Last few days Minister of Information, Communication and Culture (MICC) Dato’ Sri Utama Rais Yatim came out with a few statements on the various departments under his Ministry. The one that received vocal response concerned the private commercial radio stations that are mushrooming lately.

Rais announced that they will have to air new songs by local artistes effective March 1 and it’s going to be a precondition in the issuance of radio licence. As expected his reasoning was aimed at spurring the local music industry. A noble moves to propped the lagging industry in its own backyard.

It is obvious that with the exception of the ever popular “Klasik Nasional FM” the radio side of the national broadcaster RTM, the other stations have not taken a second look at the local new albums or singles, a worrying trend among the patriots. This is the result of poor enforcement on prerequisite of the issuance of licence by the then Ministry of Communication. Obviously Rais is trying to mend the fence since the coming of the Communication Department into his new portfolio. Of course the local artistes through their various associations welcome the announcement with open arms. They feel that they have been suppressed by the presence of foreign works on the local airwaves.

The directive was made under Section 33 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988. The Minister claims there were little efforts shown by radio stations to promote local songs. Section 33, among others, stipulates that the minister, at any time, has the power to modify or vary the special conditions of an existing licence.

Rais believes the commercial radio stations have no problem in adhering to the compulsory announcement. The commercial radio broadcasters and their followers beg to differ as they consider it a “drastic” measure but the minister contends that it was done because of the trend in the industry which did not favour the local music scene. Rais was quoted as saying “there are radio stations which couldn’t care less about the local music. They tend to amuse themselves with foreign songs and not giving due attention to the ‘love Malaysia music’ programme”. He said the move was to rejuvenate the country’s “ailing” music industry which saw the value diminishing from RM200 million a year in 2001 to RM 70 million a year at the moment.

Apart from that his ministry would also strive to address other issues encumbering the industry such as piracy and illegal downloading of songs via the Internet. The ministry also planned to set up a music department in its effort to strengthen the country’s music industry.

The commercial radio stations under its grouping “Commercial Radio Malaysia” (CRM) wants to meet the minister on the issue. Of course CRM wants to clarify their side of the story and to discuss the possible impact on the industry. CRM claimed that the local music industry had grown immensely with their help. In a statement CRM insist that supporting Malaysian artistes would continue to be a necessary segment in the business of local radio stations. “With the decline of global and local sales of music CDs, the radio has been an important tool for Malaysian artistes, including sales of legitimate digital downloads and ring back tones” claimed CRM.

That statement sound familiar. It must have been prepared sometime back and waiting for the correct time to be issued. I don’t find anything new in CRM’s statement. I believe there is truth in Rais reasoning. I have stopped listening to most of the commercial stations a long time back as I am not a strong connoisseur of foreign music that they have been blasting whenever I tune in. Of course they do play local works but that’s at an unearthly hour where their so called “rating” are not affected. I don’t subscribe to the truth of ratings anyway as they are being manipulated to please certain sectors of the industry or advertisers. The rating game is a mockery as long the commercial stations keep competing for the attention of listeners and advertisers. All the time it berated that most commercial stations are forever beating the national broadcaster radio stations at the rating game which don’t make sense to me as most people I meet claimed that they tune to “Klasik Nasional FM”.

The ministry is listening to the many grouses and said that CRM has not done enough to create a healthy local music industry. The open sky policy through the New Media has led to the trend of appreciating foreign works at the expense of comparatively weak local product. One just wonders how the ruling was going to be implemented as the CRM has already claimed in their statement that they have already played their role in supporting the local music industry. In short they are telling the minister they don’t have to be told what to do. The best solution is for both sides to meet and resolved the issue.

Sometime one just wonders whether one is really in Malaysia whenever one tunes to the radio here. The music is definitely foreign with announcement in various languages, mainly English. The English of the so called DJs (announcers) are atrocious coupled with all sorts of grammatical mistakes and Americanised way of delivery which never was. DJs are much more gullible on the American or British singers than the westerners themselves. They definitely don’t have the slightest idea of the local scene with the exception of a few. Their references are the album cover and the gossip columns which are speculative and sensation in nature. This is a worrying trend.

They resort to using the Malay language when they are in sticky situation or when they get stuck with their flow of thought. Likewise the Malay language DJs. This issue has been raised by previous information ministers and patriotic Bahasa Melayu circles. It concern the so called “Bahasa Rojak”, the wrong usage of the Malay language. This worrying trend has the lovers of the Malay language up in arms but nothing seems to have been resolved.
The Education Ministry has a set rule on the teaching of the Malay language. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka DBP gloated on their role of being the expert of the language. Now where do the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture (MICC) fit in.

Rais is trying to arrest the sliding trend of the local music industry by inclining to the formation of a Department of Music under his ministry’s wing. Fine. Beside that he should also be thinking about having a “Bahasa Melayu Department” to stop the rot and decay of the language over the local airwaves. Let’s not quarrel with DBP or the Education Ministry over each other’s role. The Education Ministry can continue their role in teaching the language proper. DBP should just concentrate on the written aspect of the language, whereas the MICC should look into the proper way the language should be pronounce and use which is within their jurisdiction.

At one time years ago, RTM did try to have a small “pronunciations section” in its radio newsroom under the charge of former teacher George Abraham who also double up as the English newsreader over Radio and TV. George did a good job of contacting language experts and foreign embassies in getting the correct pronunciations of names of person and places of that particular country. RTM was top on that. With George departure through retirement I am not sure if the “section” is still operating but whenever I tune to the national broadcaster’s Radio and TV I doubt of its existence.

It is high time for the Ministry to arrest the sliding trend in this area over the air encompassing all the country’s broadcasters. It is not too late to have a point of reference for them. A regular issuance of glossary of pronunciations of certain and peculiar words is in order to improve the quality of broadcasting.

The other aspect that needs attention is the adherence to the set rules. Of course this can be done through regular monitoring. I think even the Ministry has forgotten that it has a Monitoring Division which used to be based in some isolated place in Klang. Its original role was to monitor foreign broadcasts that gave adverse report on Malaysia during the days of “Konfrantsi” and subsequently when that period of the country’s problem came to an end it was to monitor aggressive news report adverse to the country’s interest from certain foreign radio stations. Later part of the outfit was placed in Angkasapuri proper to monitor the private TV station that emerged especially in its commercial and advertising presentations. I believe that has ceased due to the lack of space in the building.

It is high time the Monitoring Division be diverse to include the monitoring of all Radio and TV stations’ broadcast paying attention to the sliding trend in pronunciations over the air and in particular the Malay Language. I have yet to see the implementation in my life time.

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