The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia
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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.
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Chapter 8: The Singapore Grip: Putting the Squeeze on a Globalized Media Post 9/11

Jonathan Woodier


We don’t try to hide the statistics; we don’t try to hide the problem. We deal with it in a very open manner, in a very professional manner. (Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore) As the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic took hold in East Asia in March 2003, Singapore’s Prime Minister was on a trip to Japan. This declaration of transparency by Goh Chok Tong’s government was welcomed around the world. Few commented upon the irony that the statement needed to be made at all (Straits Times 2003). For, the PAP government is determined to secure its hold on the ‘modern machinery of memory’ (Wright 2002), despite the growing impact of cross-border, mass communication media in the Asian region and beyond. Following Douglas Kellner’s hegemony model, the Singapore media not only serves to further the perceived interests of the ruling elite but, despite an increasingly globalized communication media, Singapore’s government also asserts its gatekeeping role over the flow of news and information within its borders by forging its own alliances among ‘transnational corporations, the capitalist state, and communications technologies in the era of technocapitalism’ (Kellner 1990, p. 90). While other governments around Southeast Asia bemoaned their failing ability to control the flow of information in the Internet age, Singapore’s grip seemingly remained as tight as ever. Elites around the region could only watch with envy as the island state shrugged off the predictions of democratization theorists who maintained that, as a society develops, its middle class necessarily...

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