The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia

The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia

Karaoke Culture and the Evolution of Personality Politics

Jonathan Woodier

Jonathan Woodier’s latest work considers what impact the media has upon the democratization process in Southeast Asia. Has the media had a liberalizing effect or become subject to elite control in Southeast Asia and, if so, why? What role does the global media play in this process, particularly given its conglomerization and commoditization? By examining the communications media and its relationship to political change in Southeast Asia, this fascinating study will endeavour to provide both a regional comparative analysis and a more balanced interpretation of the mass communication media in the wake of September 11, 2001. The book also investigates the durability of authoritarian regimes and the enduring capacity of the media-controlled state alongside the growing sophistication of political communications – particularly the use of PR consultants.

Chapter 9: Managing Perceptions – From Shooting the Messenger to Dodging the Questions: The Role of PR in Southeast Asia

Jonathan Woodier

Subjects: politics and public policy, international relations


INTRODUCTION While the US ‘war on terror’ has eased liberal western pressure on Southeast Asia’s authoritarian political elites and engendered local support for continued political and economic stability, their awareness of the growing challenge to their policy of media control due to cross–border media flows and both the conglomeration and celebrification of the media industry has seen the region’s governments adopt a more sophisticated appreciation of the perception industries. There has been a shift from media control to public relations (PR) across the region. Led by Singapore, the most effective user of the perception industries, Southeast Asia’s illiberal governments have begun to adopt a more nuanced understanding of the media and, through PR, to learn how best to use the available technology to communicate to their various stakeholders both external to, and within their borders. It is here that the most dramatic changes are being made to their policies of control. By examining the case study of Singapore, and with reference to developments elsewhere in the region, this chapter will examine how Southeast Asia’s political elites are working to win the hearts and minds of these stakeholders and, where their control of the medium is challenged, to continue to control the message. The citizens of Singapore have been in thrall to the governing People’s Action Party and its senior figure Lee Kuan Yew for almost 45 years. Served by a pliant media brought to heel by a combination of legislative and ownership controls, the PAP has been...

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