THE Nanyang Press Group has cautioned that unhealthy competition among Chinese newspapers may result in more casualties in the fiercely competitive market, which has already seen the collapse of four of the nine Chinese dailies since the 1980s.
Reporting on a statement issued by the group, which publishes the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, Nanyang said what happened in Hong Kong –where Apple Daily’s aggressive foray into the market forced three established newspapers to close shop – could also happen here.
“In Malaysia, we used to have nine voices. Now we have only five. A new paper may not mean a sixth voice.
“Like Hong Kong, we may end up with less than five,” said the statement in apparent reference to the Oriental Daily News, the country’s sixth Chinese daily which hit the streets on Jan 1.
In a headline declaring that “we will do whatever is necessary,” Nanyang reported that it was the right of the Nanyang Press Group not to help its competitors to circulate their products if its viability was threatened.
The group, said the daily, had fought for freedom of competition, freedom of speech and freedom of choice of newspaper for readers within the limits of the law and in the context of Malaysia’s multi-racial society.
With competition, the consumer would benefit from higher quality and lower prices, and the producer would benefit from higher efficiency and lower cost, it added.
But increasing competition in the Malaysian Chinese newspaper market might not produce that happy result because the market was small and competition was already very fierce, said the daily.
Nevertheless, the daily said the group acknowledged the right of any would-be publisher to enter the market and to compete with whatever strategies he deemed appropriate.
“However, we are appalled by the tactics and strategies of a certain publisher.”
But, the statement said, no matter how undesirable the strategies and tactics might be, the publisher was entitled to spend his money as he saw fit.
“By the same token, we only ask that we be allowed the same freedom to conduct our business our way – as long as it is legal, ethical and appropriate in the context of our society,” reported the newspaper.
The daily stated that as for freedom, the group certainly upheld the readers’ right to choose the paper they wanted.
“But if the enhanced competition leads to the demise of one or two papers for financial, legal or political reasons, are the readers’ interests served?” it asked.
“In any event, as a business, we reserve the right not to help our competitors make their products freely available, if our own viability may be at stake.
“In choosing to do business with us, our associates have freely and knowingly agreed that they will not distribute other publications without our prior consent, or do anything that may threaten our mutually beneficial relationship.
“In choosing not to do business with others without our consent, our associates are merely honouring the letter and spirit of the agreements with us.
“Ours is a free market. We all have to do what we have to do.”