Malaysia

After printing permit flip-flop, The Edge publisher speaks out against anti-trust in media sector

Property and media tycoon Datuk Tong Kooi Ong today lashed out at anti-trust behaviour by other Malaysian media tycoons that has led Putrajaya to hold off from issuing him a fresh printing permit for a general newspaper, FZ.

The FZ, the acronym for financial zoo, was to be the print version of his news portal, fz.com, published by his The Edge Communications media group.

Writing in his personal blog tongkooiong.com, the widely-respected businessman said Putrajaya had issued an approval letter dated August 20, 2013 for a printing permit to publish FZ but another letter dated August 28, 2013 had overturned the approval without any reason or duration for the deferral.

"What happened during the one week, between 20 August and 28 August 2013? Three guys, each involved in separate media companies, met together and with others.

"By 23 August 2013, I was already informed of the contents of the Home Ministry letter of 28 August 2013. The CEO of The Edge Media Group was told by one of the three guys," Tong wrote in his blog post, without naming the three men.

"The government, which regulates the private sector, has now become “regulated” by such powerful private sector elites," he said.

In the blogpost titled "Say NO to Corporate Kings", the publisher hinted at the forces that were against him getting a printing permit, noting that he entered into a partnership with the Berjaya Group to combine The Edge and TheSun in 2002.

"TheSun was turned around and Berjaya wanted to part ways in 2008. In recent times, I have been approached if I would consider buying TheSun again.

"I was also asked if I would consider partnering The Malay Mail and Malaysian Reserve," he said, referring to the two dailies under the RedBerry media group.

The Berjaya group is headed by tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan while RedBerry is controlled by Ancom's Datuk Siew Ka Wai, both of whom are close to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

"FZ getting a license to publish a general daily newspaper would obviously be a threat to other publications. It will also remove a “rent-seeking” opportunity to some others who might profit from selling their licenses," Tong said.

In his post, he asked the government to consider consumers' interests rather than the interests of "Corporate Kings".

"We know what is best for consumers, even if there are some debates on long-term versus short-term goals, on employment and on supporting local industries and building a critical mass to achieve economies of scale.

"We can incorporate these objectives into measurable trade-offs to arrive at clear, concise and quantifiable outcomes," he said.

For this, Tong urged Putrajaya to empower the Competition Commission (MyCC), mandate the courts to protect consumers and amend the Competition Act to allow "injured parties to sue through the courts for losses suffered from anti-competitive behaviours".

"What stands in the way of what is best for consumers? Powerful, extractive elites!

"Are we willing to continue enduring “Corporate Kings”?" he asked, saying Malaysia should follow other countries to reject such people. - October 4, 2013

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