The official launch of Sin Chew Daily's printing plant in Miri is a major step forward for Sin Chew. We have drawn from our experience in the design and construction of our printing plants in Kuching and Sibu to implement the best practices in the building of the Miri plant. From site selection to plant design, from construction to printing operations, no effort has been spared. With more modern equipment under professional management, the Miri plant will help Sin Chew maintain its status as a leading newspaper.
Our aspirations and efforts have but one purpose, that is to provide readers in northern Sarawak an improved and comprehensive level of service. We aim to raise the efficiency and quality of service, as well as expand the scope of our services, to deliver Sin Chew Daily to readers in Miri, Brunei, Limbang and Marudi within the shortest possible time. Today, as we celebrate the opening of the plant with our readers in northern Sarawak, we hope our readers will recognise the sincere efforts made by Sin Chew in upholding social justice and championing freedom of the press as well as see the determination and contribution of Sin Chew in promoting the Chinese culture and protecting the dignity of the community.
The history of Sin Chew has not always been smooth and it has to overcome many adversities in the course of its development. Sin Chew has been a voice for the community, speaking up on issues of common concern. It has worked hard to care for the poor and disadvantaged members of the society. It pays genuine attention to the demands and aspirations of its readers. Such efforts should not be seen as actions driven by ambition and monopolism. To be honest, in the course of my involvement in the newspaper industry, there have not been many occasions of joy and contentment, but rather more burden and responsibilities. I often tell myself, although we face impermanence in life and the uncertainty in business, we must give our all. We must strive to continually improve.
The 21st century is the age of globalisation, heralding the arrival of the "Global Village." New technologies are bringing about exhilarating changes, bringing convenience, excitement and variety to the lives of the people. This is especially so in the case in media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television broadcasting, where a major revolution has already begun. New technological trends such as growing pervasiveness of the Internet and mobile devices, the computer as a consolidated repository of knowledge, and the development of mobile phones as a delivery medium for data, has caused even more wonderment and delight.
With the influence and impact of new technologies and new media, there has been a shift in power; the dominant force in media is now in the hands of the users. This is because public opinion cannot be controlled and knowledge cannot be monopolised; information has become like water, flowing freely.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch once said: "The coming of the Internet age means the end of the media barons of the past; power has moved from the hands of the old elite - the editors and the chief executives - to the hands of bloggers in the 21st century."
The media industry today is facing unprecedented competition. New media is presenting a strong challenge to traditional media; it has attracted countless readers and users through its speed, breadth and usability, coupled with its interactivity and vivid nature. Therefore, as traditional media faces a life and death struggle, it needs to reinvent itself, to look beyond news, to strengthen the breadth and depth of its coverage, such that it can offset its shortcomings.
The impact from new technologies has led to a battle for the survival of the media industry. To be more competitive, the media industry has undergone corporatisation, consolidation and globalisation, in order to strengthen itself to face the challenges of the new age.
An unprecedented war of the media industry is being carried out, with each type of media competing based on their own traits. This is a fierce battle, but some people wonder, is "media consolidation" not a form of "monopolisation"? They worry about the loss of free speech, and are concerned that there will be a gradual loss of competing viewpoints. In actual fact, the concept of "monopoly" has long been challenged by new technologies and globalisation; "monopoly" has been redefined in the digital era, the age of bloggers, and new media on mobile phones. Everyone can be an author or an editor or a publisher on the web.
Therefore, when information becomes like water, can anyone monopolise it?
In 2005, more than three trillion SMS messages were sent in China. In 2006, the Chinese government became aware that SMS was like information with "wings"; it could fly freely. It began to draft regulations to control its use. Five years earlier, there were also voices in Malaysia that condemned Sin Chew Media as a "media monopoly." Such criticisms accusing Sin Chew of being a media monopoly came from websites and newspapers. If there really was a monopoly, would it have been possible for these voices to be heard?
We live in an age of constant change. In 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a bestseller called "The World is Flat." He felt that in this new era, the power to influence the world will no longer lie with multinational corporations or international organisations, but rather with individuals who will reclaim their role as actors of history in the new world order.
In the face of global trends, Sin Chew Media, like all its readers, hopes to improve its competitiveness and excel amidst this tide of new technologies and new challenges, to allow it to be a leading voice for the Chinese-speaking world on the international stage. As part of this wave of corporatisation, consolidation and globalisation, we acquired Ming Pao and Yazhou Zhoukan in 1995, and we established Cambodia Sin Chew Daily in 2000. The objectives of these efforts were to ensure the viability of Sin Chew, to internationalise, and to allow the voice of the Chinese community to be heard around the world.
Sin Chew Media has stood side by side with the Chinese community, associations and schools through various hardships. It is a newspaper that has accompanied the Chinese community on its past journeys, that is building the present, and that is welcoming the future. It carries within it the memories of pioneering hardships, and it is also a record of the joint efforts of the community as well as its determination to forge a good future for itself.
There are some who worry that the media in Malaysia is being "monopolised." The question is, Sin Chew Media is not a "closed off" company. Its shareholding is public, and its shares can be freely traded. In a free market, where there is free competition, how can there be monopoly?
History waits for no one. The Tang poet Li Bai, wrote in his poem "Departure of the Emperor at Dawn": "Amidst the incessant cries of monkeys on either bank, my skiff darted past by ten thousand mountain peaks." The noise of the traditional media is like the cries of the monkeys on both banks of the river; if one does not grasp the opportunity, if one fails to understand the development and growth of new media and its ability to surpass traditional media, if one is only engrossed in internal struggles and fails to think how to improve, then the new media will be like the "skiff" in the poem, that will travel a thousand miles a day, without heeding the "cries of monkeys."
This is a struggle for survival. In order to survive, what is crucial is one's own desire to do better, to upgrade oneself and to innovate. If a newspaper is done well, one needs not worry that there will be no readers. As individuals retake their role as actors in history in the new world order, when new technologies and new media continue to strongly challenge traditional media, we should understand even more that in today's world, it is the readers who truly have the ability, the power and the criteria to monopolise and dictate the destiny of a newspaper and not the boss of the newspaper.
Looking at the situation of the media industry in Malaysia in recent years, has there been any newspaper that has been squeezed out due to monopolistic practices? If there was really monopoly, how could have there been new newspapers coming into the market? Furthermore, in a free market, everyone has the opportunity to grow, to strengthen and to overtake the competitors. Company acquisitions are common. Yet there are people who deliberately spin the facts, who sow discord and create conflict, and seek to achieve their goals by deceiving the public who may not be aware of the truth. One can self-aggrandise, self-sanctify and self-justify, but one must not use such methods to attack others.
The Eastern Multimedia Group in Taiwan combines Internet, cable television, telecommunications and broadcasting to form a pan-media group. The China Times Group in Taiwan has greatly strengthened its online presence, while at the same time crossing media to operate the CTN cable channel. It also acquired Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), China Television Company (CTV) and the Central Motion Pictures Corp (CMPC) from the KMT in its move towards becoming a pan-media group. The United Daily News group in Taiwan has also acquired Star News, Min Sheng Daily, Economic Daily News and United Evening News, consolidating the news operations under its banner and strengthening its websites in anticipation of the media war.
Therefore, print media is reeling under the strong impact of new technologies and new media. An investment in a newspaper is no longer a goldmine. The media environment is undergoing earthshaking changes. Any hesitancy or lack of resolve in improving and changing will result in great setbacks to oneself.
Over the past few years, the American newspaper industry has been facing unprecedented difficulties. According to the 2005 survey report of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the circulation of 814 major newspapers in the US dropped by 1.9% from October 2004 to March 2005. The report also showed that since 2001, the circulation of US newspapers fell at an average rate of 1% per year.
It is not just in America that newspapers are facing such a grim prospect. Newspapers around the world are all facing the same situation under the onslaught of new technology and new media. How the industry overcomes the challenges, and redefines and reinvents itself will determine the future of global newspaper industry.
Sin Chew Media is willing to take up the challenge to create a better future, and continue to invest in newspaper operations. Our mission is to pass on and promote the Chinese culture to fulfil our responsibility as a newspaper of the people. In this media war between traditional and new media, we will strive to be the voice of the Malaysian Chinese community by becoming the premier newspaper, not only speaking out for Malaysia but also for all ethnic Chinese around the world.
Du Fu, one of China's greatest poets, wrote in his poem "From An Upper Storey": "For I see, from this high vantage, worries are everywhere." It is precisely this situation that Sin Chew Media finds itself in now. As a media business, we are well aware of the numerous challenges which we have to face in the future. However, we should welcome such challenges, as they help us improve ourselves. We will continue to work hard to the best of our ability. Other than performing our duties conscientiously, we need the support of our readers to help us overcome these difficult times to move ahead towards a better future.
By sharing my thoughts on running a newspaper and the challenges we face in the traditional print media, I hope to have an exchange of views with readers in northern Sarawak. Through this, I also hope to seek the advice of Chinese community leaders and elites who are present here today, such that more interaction, trust and cooperation can be established for our future development.
Finally, I would like to wish everyone here good health and success.