Karaoke Culture and the Evolution of Personality Politics
Chapter 9: Managing Perceptions – From Shooting the Messenger to Dodging the Questions: The Role of PR in Southeast Asia
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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