The indirect power of new media in shaping debate

In Media, Political governance on 16/12/2011 at 5:22 am

(Or “Why I am complacent about having a code of conduct for the Internet)

So a blogger is upset because an NTU academic who studies the new media agrees with the government that a code of conduct for netizens is useful.

Many moons ago, bloggers were unhappy with the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) study, Impact of new media on general election 2011, which concluded that the new media wasn’t that important in the election.They tried to explain why the new media was more important than what the IPS people tot it was.

I tot the study and most of the bloggers’ comments were missing the point.  I tot the new media played an important role in the GE for two reasons:

— It made public, information that in the past was confined, in the absence of MSM reporting, to smallish groups. To me the classic example was the 1988 GE in Eunos GRC. Most S’poreans (self included) did not know JBJ and friends had so such support there until after the results were announced. Contrast that with the 2011 GE when S’poreans knew via new media that Aljunied, East Coast and Joo Chiat were places where the PAP could lose. Of course, the new media could also give wrong info: like the SDP could win in Holland Village GRC. I mean the SDP did so-so only. Were we conned.

— Via making info public and via direct feedback from unhappy readers, the new media forced the local MSM to be a little less biased in its election coverage. There was a little less government propoganda masquerading as objective news and analysis. (BTW, I was one of the persons helping out on the survey that tried to quantify the perceived extent of how skewed was the reporting of the local newspapers. Believe you me, it was depressing measuring the large gap in coverage.)

No code of conduct can restrict the power of new media to do the above in any situation unless the code of conduct was drafted by the North Korean or Chinese government or one Tan Kin Lian**, hence my complacency.

On the point of feedback to traditional media, I recently came across a posting made several moons ago on an Economist blog, part of which I reproduce to explain how the new media influences the traditional media:

As an employee of the mainstream media, I would say that in my experience loud and convinced feedback from a large segment of the public will usually influence the treatment afforded to their subjects of concern. He goes on Indeed, this is precisely what has just happened to Mr Keller, as one can see from the difference in tone between his Monday column and his Tuesday blog post. Browbeating the mainstream media for favourable coverage, in short, is an important part of any protest movement, and while Mr Keller is right that formulating demands for things the political system can deliver is a crucial step towards effectiveness, he should also recognise that the drubbing he’s just received is also a step towards effectiveness. Piece

 So keep on shouting and bullying. It works!

*I am not being mean or jokey. The “People’s Voice” has advocated a register where all those wanting to blog or comment on the Internet have to register their personal particulars, which will be verified. The Chinese have something like this in place. China’s size makes this system difficult to enforce. S’pore’s size will make enforcement very easy.


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