BANGI: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday expressed mild bemusement over the issue of newspaper readership, saying that he did not know why this had become a big problem.
Entahlah apa yang menjadi masalah besar sangat (I dont know why this has become such a big problem).
However, if many of the newspapers have differing views, it may be good for them to think of the best yardstick or measurement which can give the correct picture of their support or readership, he told reporters after launching the new Malay tabloid Kosmo!, published by Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd at the companys printing plant here yesterday.
Abdullah was replying to a question on recent articles published in the New Straits Times questioning the accuracy of newspaper readership figures published by market research company, ACNielsen.
The NST had complained that the Nielsen surveys gave a higher readership on The Stars circulation, compared to that of the NST and the free paper The Sun. The figures are used by advertising agencies as one of the benchmarks to allocate advertisement spending.
To another question whether a second body should be set up to conduct readership surveys, Abdullah said:
I dont think so. I think the media people can sit down together and talk about it. They would know what is the best yardstick or formula to gauge the support or readership.
Commenting on the issue, a company official from The Star said:
Certainly, newspapers must sit down but more importantly, this should include the users/practitioners (for they are the ones making use of such statistical information) to meet the needs of the industry.
Abdullah also said competition among newspapers was good because this will benefit readers.
Newspaper publishers will want to present the best content and this will certainly be good for readers and the society in general, he said.
He added that it was inevitable that competition between newspapers would grow in the future.
This will not only be over the gathering of news, but also over advertisements as newspapers will need such support of the private sector, he said.
On the Human Rights Commissions intention to set up a Media Complaints Committee, Abdullah said it would be up to the people to decide whether that should happen.
I am not the one to say whether there was a need or not, he said.
He also asked newspapers not to be too sensational in their reporting and bear in mind their responsibility to the people and the country.
Earlier in his speech, the Prime Minister said noble values should not be discarded by media practitioners in pursuit of commercial success.
On another matter, Abdullah said the Housing and Local Government Ministry should look at a formula for housebuyers proposed by Rating Agency Malaysia Bhd (RAM).
Under the proposal, housebuyers would pay 10% of the cost of the house when signing the sale and purchase agreement and pay the remaining 90% only after the developer delivers the unit complete with title and certificate of fitness for occupation.