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‘Asian media appear to be weathering storms better than expected’:

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Experts discuss Covid’s impact on media

The session was co-organized by China Daily, University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University and Asia News Network.

SNS: Amid the spread of coronavirus pandemic, which has affected the businesses across the globe, a panel discussion session themed “COVID-19 and Impacts on the Media” was held virtually.

The session was co-organized by China Daily, University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University and Asia News Network on Wednesday.

The panellists discussed how reporting strategies and operations of the media have changed amid the COVID19 pandemic.

Mr. Zhou Shuchun, Standing Committee member of the CPPCC National Committee and Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of China Daily, delivered the welcoming remarks.

“Chinese media colleagues have braved hardship and danger to record heart-warming battles to tell the story of China’s fight against the pandemic, which boosted the morale of frontline warriors,” he said.

Later, Dr. John Gong, Professor of Economics, University of International Business and Economics; and Dr. Debao Xiang, Professor of School of Journalism and Communication, Shanghai International Studies University; shared their insights on the topic.

John Gong pointed out that the model of the media is changing. “Now people are more and more receiving messages through relays of information. What this difference makes is that, in order for the message to be relayed, there is a tendency for the message to go extreme. You’re moving into a world where you have those short snackable video clips kinds of product that people tend to use or like to watch. There’s no difference between fact and opinion-editorial,” he said.

“It is now even more difficult for readers to get information that is objective, fact-based. Traditional media need to tighten their seatbelt and stick to what they are doing. If you have to sacrifice your journalistic standard for traffic volume, this is deplorable. The government needs to take actions. I think we have quite a strong government here in China that looks after this disinformation and misinformation,” he added.

Debao Xiang pointed out that the pandemic’s impact on the industry is both negative and positive. “There is a decrease in the average media budget due to the coronavirus. Around 35,000 journalists in the US have been laid off and faced pay cuts amid the pandemic. This is not only influenced by COVID-19 but also the impact of the new technologies. But audience trust for journalists has increased …this is a good phenomenon for the journalism industry,” he said.

Insight Spotlight was followed by a panel discussion which was moderated by Mr. Pana Janviroj, Executive Director, Asia News Network; and Dr. DJ Clark, Multimedia Director, China Daily Asia Pacific.

Prominent leaders from media companies and experts joined the panel discussion. They were: Mr. Zhiming Chen, Deputy Director of International News Department, China Daily; Mr. Choo Joon Kian, Deputy Editor in Chief, Sin Chew Daily; Mr. Philip Golingai, News Editor, The Star; Mr. Ziaul Hoque, News Editor, The Daily Star; Ms. Vivian Hsiao, Reporter, China Post; Mr. Min Thaw Htut, Executive Director, Eleven Media Group; Mr. Nitish Kapoor, ANN Editorial Coordinator, The Statesman; Ms. Juliet Labog-Javellana, Associate Publisher, Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Mr. Ly Tayseng, CEO, Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia. They examined the implications of COVID-19 on the media industry. They discussed the future development of the media industry.

Pana Janviroj pointed out that many Asian media appear to be weathering the storms better than expected. But more importantly there is a consensus from bottom to top of the newsrooms, despite the dwindling resources and advertising revenue plunges, the relentless determination to do their jobs.

“Those are to bring accurate reportings to readers and keep them well informed. The reporters are determined to do their jobs because readers and public at large appreciate their works. The Covid-19 era has endowed long awaited public appreciation of mainstream national media and journalism,” he said.

Zhiming Chen highlighted that technology has played a key role to contain the 2020 virus. “As a news organization with global reach, China Daily is fortunate to have offices and reporters worldwide. This means, during critical moments in COVID-19 coverage, we have nose, eyes, ears on spot. This kind of local presence was invaluable for us,” he said.

Choo Joon Kian said Sin Chew Daily has not laid off or had pay cuts for anyone. The company has officially launched a membership scheme. He said that the number of members has increased to 240,000 and their e-papers have increased by 5 percent. The company plans to set up a paywall on Apple next year.

Philip Golingai said, “For me, with the retrenchment in most of the media organizations in Malaysia and also downsizing and some closures, having at least three to five news organizations is very promising for us. Roughly, that’s the situation for us.”

Ziaul Hoque said the COVID-19’s impact has been unsettling. “Our revenue went down twothirds. There have been job cuts but they are not related to the pandemic. For workload, we have to adapt to these situations because it is the demand of the time. I think it’s a positive thing, in a sense that what we had to do, it expedited the process (to digitalization). We had to remodel business models,” he said.

Vivian Hsiao said she saw a bump in the number of readers in the beginning. “When covering the COVID-19 pandemic, our readers really needed to know what’s going on. I think the responsibility of the media increased greatly this year, but we have to be careful in covering the pandemic and provide accurate information because we wanted to give our readers the current information. But we also wanted to avoid creating unnecessary panic among them as well,” she said.

Min Thaw Htut said revenues from print advertising have declined. But that decline has been covered by digital investments. “Even though our core content is news, we have also diversified our content. The main lesson I have learnt is that we have to remain trustworthy, reliable and independent to do our main core functions. The other thing that we have to be mindful about is that the attention for eyeballs is very competitive. How do we survive this? It’s by creating good quality news,” he said.

Nitish Kapoor said revenue was going down at the start of the pandemic. “But with an increase in internet users, we have gained revenue. Eventually, we’ll get long-term benefits for sure. It will surely come back to us,” he said.

Juliet Labog-Javellana pointed out that one of the positive impacts of COVID-19 for the media is it provided the impetus to accelerate digital transformation and innovation. “So what the Inquirer did was to move quickly to different platforms like we hosted more than a dozen webinars; print journalists went into podcast….we published newsletters. Because most of our staff are working from home so maybe the big challenge during this pandemic is that media’s access to government officials has been limited because there are no face-to-face press conferences. Officials can mute you online. There’s no opportunity to grill officials. The Inquirer had to leverage our credibility to counter the ‘disinfodemic’ about COVID-19 which posed a danger to people’s lives,” she said.

Ly Tayseng said, “This year, we didn’t have to retrench staff. This year, our advertising for printed media was reduced by 30 percent, but our subscription number has remained the same. Our digital revenue is increasing, but it is not significant. If the advertising revenue keeps dropping, I think there may be an impact for next year.”

Founded in 1981, China Daily covers 33 million readers and users worldwide through diversified platforms, including newspapers, websites, and mobiles and social media.

The number of China Daily’s followers has now reached 55 million on Weibo, 9.5 million on the WeChat Blog platform, 99 million on Facebook and another 4.39 million on Twitter.

The China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable is a by-invitation network of movers and shakers in Asia, providing platforms for focused dialogue, issue investigation and possible collective action on strategic issues relating to Asia’s economic, business and social development.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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premanath-c-Dolawatta

SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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