Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Singapore could learn from Rupert Murdoch

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch spoke at a media conference in Abu Dhabi, where he warned Gulf states that they must cut regulation and end censorship if they want their creative industries to truly flourish. (PDF of full speech courtesy of Media Guardian)

Much of what he said could apply to another city-state that tightly controls the media landscape while insisting that it aspires to become "a leading cultural capital" and "a hub for the arts": Singapore.

Putting aside the social and political cases for a free media, Murdoch argued that it makes economic sense to ease media restrictions.

Limits on the operations of foreign media companies in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Singapore put off some investors - although the governments of these city-states often successfully counter this by offering attractive tax breaks and other financial incentives.

But, more importantly, censorship and government control kills creativity, which is vital for the media industry to flourish.

As Murdoch put it: "Human creativity flourishes in freedom. By making the decision for greater openness, you will signal the importance you have assigned to creativity in your plans for the future – and declare your confidence in your people."

Murdoch said that he had had his fair share of "blistering newspaper attacks … unflattering television coverage … and books that grossly distort my views or my businesses or both".

The owner of The Times and the Wall Street Journal said he accepted that this was the price of success in a modern society but that "for a nation, the stakes are even higher".

"In face of an inconvenient story, it can be tempting to resort to censorship or civil or criminal laws to try to bury it," he said.

However, he warned that government attempts to boss the media were counter-productive, "promoting the very panic and distrust that they had hoped to control".

There was evidence for that in the furore caused by self-exiled Singaporean blogger Gopalan Nair, who claimed in a not-very-convincing hoax blog post that Lee Kuan Yew had suffered a heart attack.

Although he is based in California and has a track-record for anti-government rants rather than breaking stories, the extreme distrust in the government-controlled media meant that some otherwise sensible people thought there might be something in Nair's claims.

1 comment:

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