On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Get a clearer picture first before acting

These groups reportedly fear  that viewing these movies might  bring negative effects on community unity and
the future direction  of the

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr  Mahathir
Mohamad, when asked  by the media on
these calls, said  there should be an
investigation of  such programmes to find
out  whether they actually influence  the people.

Dr Mahathir's response is commendable because a knee-jerk reaction would not
provide an accurate picture of the situation.

Any foreign movies, whether  Chinese or
Arabic, should be  checked before they
are shown.

Unlike its neighbours, Malaysia  has been
liberal in its policy on TV  programmes.
Of all the Asean TV  stations, only ours
show movies for  all ethnic and dialect

Singapore TV stations strictly  enforce a
Chinese language-only  policy, shutting
out the more popular Cantonese versions.

Astro has become popular  among the
Chinese community in  Malaysia because of
its few channels which offer entertainment 
and news programmes from China, 
Taiwan and Hong Kong.

One of its news programmes, tailored after CNN, provides news  from China, Taiwan and Hong  Kong. But like all news programmes, it also
airs events from  all over the

Most of the popular Hong Kong  movies
aired on Astro channels are  also readily
available on video  tape.

For example, many Malaysians  follow the
popular drama serial A  Kindred Spirit on
Astro nightly but  those who can't wait
to find out the  next episode can rent
the entire series from video shops.

The drama, which emphasises  family
values, is more popular  than some of the
martial arts series.

Then there is the popular Journey to the West (II) series which  stresses on good overcoming evil.  Popular among children and  adults, this series is based on popular
Buddhist folklore.

There should not be too much 
generalisation made on the Astro 
programmes, particularly from 
those who do not even watch them.

A more systematic approach, as  suggested
by Dr Mahathir, would  give a clearer
picture of the overall content.

The emphasis should, perhaps,  be on
quality programmes. For example, we can do away with those  old low-budget kung fu movies and  slapstick comedies which are being

To ensure more viewership of local TV programmes, Astro should  perhaps be directed to set up a  channel solely for local Chinese  programmes, similar to Ria.

Although this will incur additional expenses, it would certainly be a  boost to the local movie industry.

The channel could have Malaysian news programmes, similar to  the Chinese news aired on RTM  and NTV7.

While Malaysians may watch  foreign news,
they would still follow local news as events in the  country directly affect their daily  lives. As the saying goes, all news  is local.

In fact, many Malaysians follow  CNN but
they also follow other  news programmes
for regional  content.

With the availability of the Internet and our promotion of the Multimedia Super
Corridor, it would be  sad if we take a
step backward.  The advance of the
multimedia and  the information age can
no longer  be stopped.

There will always be alternatives if curbs are imposed, even  with the best intentions. It is better  for the Government to take advantage of its
existing resources and  tools, including
Astro, than to  place restrictions.

PAS, for example, has reportedly  said it
would invest in Internet  television to
overcome the restrictions on its newsletter Harakah.  The party plans to telecast interviews with
party leaders and special reports around the clock.

PAS said it was pushing itself  further
into the Internet age, not  only in
making Harakah more attractive on the Net but also in entering the world of
Internet TV.

In the current controversy over  Astro,
wrong signals should not be  sent to the
Chinese community,  who would be affected
by any  wrong decision.

Their loyalty to the Government  and
country is solid, as reflected in  their
overwhelming backing for  Barisan
Nasional in the recent  general

More foreign movies, including  those
from Asean countries and  Europe, should
be shown by our  TV stations.

To maintain its quality, Bahasa  Malaysia
subtitles should be adopted to open up the minds of viewers.

Singapore, for example, has good 
programmes and should be enjoyed by all Malaysians and not  just Johoreans.

TV stations must take steps to  promote
such programmes as the  world is not just
Hollywood,  Bollywood and Hong

NTV7 and TV3, for example, are 
aggressively competing with Astro  
which is good because competition always strengthens quality.

RTM2 and NTV7 should be commended for their Chinese news  bulletins. To capture the viewership of the
Chinese community,  more air time should
be given to  these news programmes.

RTM2's City Focus, a programme on current issues, commands a strong following
because  of its good presentation and

The concern of our policy-makers and TV stations should be to air  quality programmes. If TV programmes are
popular, whether local or foreign, it's simply because  they are well-produced.

This should be the criteria in reviewing Astro's programmes.

A debate on the foreign content  of our
TV programmes is good but  there should
also be some restraint. Moderation is how Malaysians resolve issues and it
should  continue to be so, taking into
account the sensitivities of all