Monday, April 26, 2010

Public Opinion on the Mainstream Media

Bryan Ti said that my article on "An Accountable Parliament" contained a hidden suggestion that the mainstream media is biased against the "opposition" candidates. He asked me to provide evidence to substantiate my point.

I am voicing an opinion tht is shared by many people. The public see what is going on and form their opinion. If you want the public to form a different opinion, you have to give them the reason to change that opinion. After all, this is what public opinion is all about.

I want to share a story. Twenty five years ago, I invited a retired Englishman, and a good friend, to stay in my house for three months. After a week, he told me, "Kin Lian, what kind of rubbish is the ST producing". I was taken aback. He said that the ST presented only the favorable aspect of government policies. It is not possible for any policy to have only one side; there is always another side. In the UK, the papers will write both sides and let the public make their judgement.

Many Singaporeans may not be aware about the hidden bias in the reporting of the mainstream media. I hope that Bryan Ti is right that the mainstream media is now more balanced in their reporting. However, this has to be an opinion that is made by the general public on their own volition.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

There is a Singapore urban myth that news reporting MUST be FACTUAL. And that OPINIONS are bad.

Firstly, human beings are not machines. So we do get influenced (at a sub-conscious level) by the writing style. Even though the contents are all "factual".

Secondly, very few human beings are able to distinguish between facts and opinions.

Thirdly, the "trick" to influencing public opinion in a "factual" Singapore newspaper is the way the "headlines" are scripted.

Let's look at today's Straits Times headlines, 26 April: "Bosses accept need to restore some CPF cuts".

An equally factual headline could have been:
"Bosses have yet to restore CPF cuts".

Now examine your emotional reactions to both these headlines. Your feelings and thoughts as you read the accompanying article are now very different.

Anonymous said...

Our mainstream media is not talking rubbish but speaking in gibberish.

Anonymous said...

mr tan,u can ignore this rubbish of BryanT.he is going around blog playing both sides of the coin & what is there to prove?!in e first instance of subject matter,u rightly say that is perception of public,albeit the voice therein of displeasure about the one stream media reporting, IS A FACT!& FACT NEED NO EVIDENCE,BryanT is an old man that has nothing better to him in SE Democrats blog,he is doing e same but playing both sides,is such a shame that man of this nature exist & now rubbing salt in your blog! avoid him,ignore at best & swing e table around and ask him with prove that e main stream media is not one sided! Bravo for your speaking up Mr Tan.we are with you 101% & BryanT is nothing but leech of MIW,BUT not within e inner circle, he is nothing & not accepted!trust me i know..

Anonymous said...

Mr Tan;

your foreigner friend was able to detect the flaw within a week, yet the Locals are laping up all the good news reportings of the local medias. Why do You think caused the Locals to be so undicerning?

Do You think the Locals are brainwashed and indoctrinated through the Education System(since young) and the Official Medias(print/broadcast/telecast)??

Say the people in SIN are like zombies, if not apathetic, how can they be awakened? Or is it better for them to be compliant and be devoured by the Lions(SM Goh Chok Tong claimed) that run the country?


Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi Patriot

Singaporeans are generally not able to form their own opinion. They like to follow the opinion of other people. Some people say that it shows gullibility.

It is likely to be caused by the education system. We need to get people to be able to think for themselves, rather than to rely on other people to think for them.

Anonymous said...

there is no opposition view becuase there is no opposition but just a handful of also ran 'civil servants' drawing $15K to make parliament look like there is opposition, at least in the eyes of foreigners.

Anonymous said...

In Singapore, the more you study, the more stupid you become. Go & do some reading on your own instead.

Tan Kin Lian said...

I heard stories (but not verified) that editors of mainstream media are called by political leaders from time to time and told to focus their stories in certain angles to bring certain points across. This constraints the editors and journalists from giving an independent, balanced, objective view.

Anyway, as expressed by my retired Englishman friend 25 years ago, it is better for the media to cover the story in many angles and not only on one angle.

Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows,

Bryan T has every right to demand evidence. And here are some recent ones i remember off my head, because i was so ANGRY.

1. "Kwong Wai Shu hospital gets new lease of Life" - Straits times article header. What really transpired: when the $1 nominal rent of the hospital expired (British masters were so kind, they gave $1 rent for 99 years), Govt. charged $1,000,000 for rental. The article header is a joke.
2. Sear Hock Rong case: SHR as a ypap member, allegedly got some contracts for his media company and it was alleged that due process of competitive bidding was not followed. The reporter added her own comments to dismiss this alleged misdeed, and said "after all, it involved just a couple of contracts". Does the law allow for lenient treatment depending on the size of the contract? (How about take a taxi to send personal documents and claim from the office (familiar??) )The Editor who allowed such irresponsible reporting should be sacked together with the reporter.

4. George Yeo was recently quoted by straits times to have said something (i cant remember what) which was a wise saying. George Yeo clarified later that it was Indonesia President who first said it. The local media is only too eager and quick to give praise to MIW. It was humbling that George Yeo stood up and corrected the media, what an embarassment!!

5. There are numerous incidents where reporters added very favourable ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS to describe government ministers replying to public queries. Just open your eyes big big, you can see it everyday. Such padding of articles is downright unprofessional, if not despicable, becasue it carries a sublime message elevating the incumbent's position.

There are so many instances!!

Your demands, BryanT, can be very easily met. Now that the evidence is here, what do you say? In a court, if the evidence is presented, you have to make a stand, guilty or not guilty, then PASS SENTENCE. You cannot sit on the fence, Bryan T. What is your verdict now?


Anonymous said...

Another more inflammatory (by Singapore standards) but yet factual front page headline for today's Straits Times, 26 April could be:

"Economy Booming! Bosses yet to restore CPF cuts"

Anonymous said...

BryanT claims to be the 'watchdog' of the opposition coz he wants good opposition. Can't blame his effort or reason. However, he fail to realise that there is no opposition if the current Pee a Pee is being oppressive and behaves exactly like communist.

In fact, mao, kim, castro, lenin and stalin are applauding old man Lee in their graves for the perfect communist system in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Tan,

Regarding the editors and senior mgmt of SPH being "guided" by govt what to stress on and what to avoid, yes it is True.

I used to have a Uni classmate whose dad was an editor of ST. Almost every week there would be briefing by officers from MITA (in those days) to specify what is halal or not. That was 12 years ago, but I expect the practice to be still in place.

A few years ago, the chief editor of Today paper was hauled up in front of Perm Sec in PMO and given a dressing down, together with the reporter and CEO of Mediacorp. Their "crime"? For reporting on the FACTS that singapore govt went thru british PM office to get a place in an exclusive London hospital for LKY's wife who had collapsed, when initially there was already no beds available. And then also to report on SIA converting an entire Boeing 747 into a flying hospital and with a team of 20 specialists, doctors, nurses to bring LKY and his wife back.

The govt insisted on the chief editor being demoted and in future, to ask permission from his MD or CEO for everything he do.

Couple of years later, when Mr Brown wrote the "offending" article in Today paper, the ex-chief editor (who kenna burned before & now scared) OVER-REACTED and fired Mr Brown from his column. Unfortunately this caused the mass singaporeans to criticise and rumours that govt was involved in the firing. This further aggravated the govt and finally that ex-chief editor was tekan-ed and asked to resign.

That's the name of the game in local media. If you are not political enough, don't play politics, and make bad judgements then that's it for you.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to spot the likes of Bryan T as a probable PAP cyber activist. As the election draws nearer they appear in greater frequency in the cyberspace.

The onus is for the PAP-controlled media to prove its critics wrong, not the other way round.

Parka said...

We won't be expecting stories from The Online Citizens to appear in mainstream papers for a long time.

Power to the Internet.

observer said...

Its always the sa-kar people who do many of these things, and innoncent ones like us get shot along the way.

I used to work overseas in the middle east many years ago. LKY was on his way to the Heads of Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka ( Africa ) His plane had stopped in Dubai to refuel enroute to London. There were no direct flights to Lusaka and he had to go up to London and back down to Africa.

During take off, loud explosions were heard and fire was seen below the 747 belly.
All disembarked safely and we were gathered in the baggage area to claim our bags.
Nervous and glad to be alive, we started smoking.

Out came a tall young man with an SAF haircut, approached us and said that we should stop smoking as the PM was coming out of the VIP room ( next to where we were standing )

Wow!.. yes, we were distinctly from singapore, due to our manner of speech, but hey! this is the United Arab Emirates!

I did not know the influence was as far reaching as that! It seemed, the Dubai airport was owned by him!! But, I am sure this was done by the sa-kars. same as the visits by MITA to SPH.

The same too when you go and meet your MP in the evenings. There is always "key" personnel that would be bossing everyone around.. they can be very non-descript.. and filtering cases for the MP to interview.

C H Yak said...


"I heard stories (but not verified) that editors of mainstream media are called by political leaders from time to time and told to focus their stories in certain angles to bring certain points across. This constraints the editors and journalists from giving an independent, balanced, objective view." UQ

Not only in publishing articles ... so are letters contributed by the public.

Letter writers ( I used to contribute) to the MSM like myself also faced strict censorship, particularly if the letter is too strong and highly critical of govt. policies.

It is not just simply about getting the grammar perfect. Hahaha.

Anonymous said...


You are right about our mainstream public media. In fact, most Singapore younger generation citizens no longer read them. They prefer to read from alternative media.

Mainstream media got themselves to blame for their eventual out of place.

Bryan Ti said...

I had no intention of defending the MSM, but was merely asking Mr Tan to substantiate his statement about bias of the MSM.

But what is interesting is that some of the responses to this article also illustrate at the same time the shortcomings of the alternative media.

I have just read someone write this on his FB: “刚看到一个对Astroturfing的新解,甚经典:if it's something u don wanna hear, then it's astroturf...”

(essentially he was mentioning that he has just seen a new definition of “Astroturfing”)

To that post, I commented that “coincidentally, that definition also applies to the word ‘trolling’. And not surprisingly, such words are always applied to others, never to oneself.”

I cite the comments above because there are many ardent supporters of the Opposition (and ruling party as well) who tend to denigrate all forms of criticisms of the parties they adhere to. They do not consider these as forms of feedback or useful discourse to clarify their own thoughts and positions.

It is interesting that a commenter here noted that I am “playing both sides”. Is it not ironic and symptomatic of skewed thinking that when someone offers criticism against what the Opposition and the government do or say, it is treated as “playing both sides”?

My position has always been that as citizens, we must speak up because we must NOT let the politicians assume what we want or need.

Politics is too important to leave it to the politicians.

I think Mr Tan is trying to do the same thing.

But many people who roam the alternative media tend to treat each other as “you-are-either-with-me-or-against-me”. Any comments from the other side of the fence, constructive or otherwise, is brushed off as astroturfing or trolling straightaway.

At this rate, I don’t think I don’t think we have much hope for the Alternative Media as well.

Anonymous said...

Yes Bryan T, it is best for you to stick with mainstream media then. Bye! lol

J said...

I think if we have newspapers that operate independently and free of government interference, we would not be talking about this. I also agree with Mr Tan KL's friend that ST is producing rubbish. With a paper like the ST, we thoroughly deserve our low press freedom ranking.

Let me add a few more points.

1. By now we all know the classic Lee Hsien Loong line "fix the opposition and buy my supporters votes". If I remember correctly (can someone verify?), the comment was modified in the Straits Times.

2. Another (purported) case of censorship in the mainstream media:

He also has a recent article commenting on how the journalists in Singapore are not actively finding out stories of interest.

3. This is somewhat tangential, but it is an instance of the SPH defending the scholarship system in Singapore. About 1-1.5 years ago, there was this doctor Allan Ooi who committed suicide. In his suicide letter, he cited that the main reason for his suicide was that he didn't like his job at the SAF. The papers in the SPH have to say that he was obsessed with computer games and so on, which led to Allan Ooi's suicide letter to be published in the Temasek Review.

4. We really need a forum that will tell us that our elected/ selected leaders think of us a lesser mortals, or as old and lazy people, and that our leaders are deaf to criticisms. The ST is not doing this job.

, and here is another Lee Hsien Loong classic: If you are 30, 40 or 50 years old, he doesn't want to be your platoon commander.

5. Somebody must have got uncomfortable with Al Jazeera uncovering all the dirt in Singaporeans living in tents and casinos that Al Jazeera was taken off the air.

6. Why does the mainstream media not report on ? Why do we not know about our current president's role in the WW2 for the Japanese?

Really, there is too many things to say to attack the ST and the mainstream media.

Bryan Lee said...

Mr Ti,

It seems to me that your actions are comparable to a guerrilla tactic - sabotaging all over the place.

So where do you stand? My suggestions would be if you know your writings can have an adverse and provocating effect, then it's best you that you don't comment.

It is really tiring to "guess" whose side you're on, because you're neither here nor there; And being neither here nor there doesn't helps.

My apologies if I may sound rude, but that's my feel. Because I'm a Singaporean too, i did my NS and hold a pink NRIC.

If the "Alternative Media" fails we would have no voice left, hence it cannot fail. We have to try to make it serious and serious enough for the reigning politicians to sit up and look and take notice.

Because you know and we all know, a change is inevitable.


Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows:

Bryan T, let me analyse your tracks.
First you challenged Mr Tan Kin Lian to show evidence that MSM is biased. Unless you are illiterate, or living in Timbuktu and never heard nor lived in Singapore, you would probably have some opinion already of MSM at the time you wrote that challenge. I find it impossible to believe the sincerity of your new confession QUOTE "I had no intention of defending the MSM, but was merely asking Mr Tan to substantiate his statement about bias of the MSM." UNQUOTE.

Now when the tons of evidence as per your request, were produced, you conveniently divert the tracks and now you throw a smokebomb and implicate that "alternative media is just as bad".

What kind of a sneaky plot are you cooking?

It is not the purpose of the discussion to analyse the quality of alternate media. Because Alternate media are legion, there are good ones (like TKL's blog, Yoong Siew Wah's blog, Lucky Tan's blog etc) and then there are those which are unflitered and allow mixed bag of good and bad articles/comments. But at least, intelligent readers can see for themselves in alternate media, what's good and what's bad.

IN MSM there is nothing to see, it's MONOCHROME!!

For me, and i think for most rational people, Nation building using political power to muzzle the Mainstream Media into reporting only certain things in a certain way is a most despicable strategy. This surely is the problem to address first and foremost. Keep focussed!!.


NetSurfer said...

Let the readers be the judge.
Let them think for themselves.
Let them come to their own conclusions.

Main stream media will claim that to publish excerpts from or TKL is to acknowledge their existence and to lend credibility to their postings.
Not to discuss and engage is to deny.
Its probably too lowly and not academic enough for them.

There is a quote from a well known US judge who was asked if he read the newspapers daily, he replied:

" I do not read the front page news, it reports on the failure of man. I prefer the sports page, it celebrates man's achievements"

Anonymous said...

I usually don’t pay much attention (especially during GE) to the Main stream media.

I don’t trust the Main stream media to the extent that when an opposition candidate got an unusual coverage (such as interview during the election campaign) from the Main stream media, I start worrying for the candidate!

Anonymous said...

Do not pay too much attention to this Bryan Ti, very obvious he is a running dog of the PAP.
Hurray to alternative media, and the foreign media like Bloomberg, Financial Times, the Washinton Post,etc., else Singaporeans would really like frogs in the well, being shielded from what's happening in our own country.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the full parliamentary speech made by Sylvia Lim of Workers' Party yesterday.

I find it to be an excellent piece of speech which the local msm should have published in full. Of course, we know it would not be published it full because it will be demolished all the rubbish reasons put forward by the pap regarding the GRC and NCMP.


Anonymous said...

REX comments again on Bryan Ti's post,

Bryan Ti, whilst awaiting your esteemed comments, i have another one for your collection.

Evidence #7 of MSM biased reporting:

Today's straits times carried an article where the new american ambassador more or less apologised to singapore govt for making a statement some weeks ago to the effect that he would use his influence to bring about more freedom of the press in Singapore.

Do you know what Stratits times said? It said this statement made "MANY people angry", based on some letters written to the forum page.

I remember very well, whenever there is some criticism against govt policies, the straits times would always say "SOME" people were disgruntled with blah blah blah.

The use of MANY and SOME carries a sublimal message which reflects the bias of the writer. It is wrong! It is irresponsible, biased reporting. Adjectives often reflect the opinion of the writers. The duty of an objective is to state the facts. Where this is not possible, the writer should qualify with "in my opinion" or the like to emphasis that it is not fact.

How many more pieces of evidence do you want Bryan Ti? Unable to reply because your hypocritical post is exposed? Speak up, pal.


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