BONE FOR THE DOG: Contesting ideologies in broadcast advertisements

If Media Prima expects public condonement of its Ramadan advertisement, it must have forgotten the Allah issue in 2010 (Kuppusamy, 2010) or the unlawful demolishment of Hindu temples by City Hall in 2006 (Pandi, 2011). Fraught with interethnic tension, race is salient among Malaysians (Neo, 2006). In accordance with social identity theory, the social identities of Malaysians are hence racially defined (Reicher, 2004). 

Screen shot from Media Prima's Ramadan advertisement - Scwatch, 2011

                The advertisement revolves around suggestions of how the Chinese should behave during Ramadan for the sake of respecting the Muslims (Yeow, 2011). The furor it received is expected (Yeow, 2011). The social cognitive theory of Albert Bandura(2000) states that we are simultaneously products and producers of our immediate environment. Independent of whether the advertisement was racist, bias will still be perceived by the Chinese due to racial controversies within Malaysia. Biased judgment of media bias is persistent when controversies are involved, as evidenced in the media

Malaysian Malay Muslims protesting the use of "Allah" in Bibles - Malaysian Justice, 2010.

coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict which observed infinite audience accusations pertaining to issues such as disproportionate coverage of Israelites and Palestinians, and stereotyping (Kressel, 1987). Therefore, producers of any kind of media intended for mass consumption should consider the socio-cultural context as well as the historical background of the intended audience in order to minimize misunderstandings (Turner, 2007) and maximize communication.

                Essentially, all forms of mass communications should uphold the duty in accordance to the quality exalted by The Pulitzer Prizes – to render “meritorious public service” (The Pulitzer Prizes, n. d.). Productions should be governed by consequentialism, where every consequence that might transpire from audience consumption is critically evaluated for the benefit of the people to make informed decisions. All advocacies of hegemony should be eradicated as hegemonies deprive a person the basic right to make an informed and unaffected decision (Wilkinson, 1999). The agenda setting theory embodies the infinity of media power. Empowered to choose the perspective, the and the amount of information to disclose on a given topic, media producers are able to dictate to the masses what is important, what has happened and what never happened (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). Surely such powers should tempt the beholder to be ethically utilitarian and hence use the media to achieve the greatest good for mankind? Perhaps Media Prima should make an advertisement where the social identities of the subjects are not defined racially but rather, in nationalist principles for the sake of racist Malaysia. 




1) Bandura, A., 2000, ‘Exercise of human agency through collective efficacy’, Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 75 – 78, viewed 8 November 2011, <>

2) Freeman, S., 1994, ‘Utilitarianism, deontology, and the priority of right’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 313 – 349, viewed 12 November 2011, <>

3) Kressel, N. J., 1987, ‘Biased judgments of media bias: A case study of the Arab-Israeli dispute’, Political Psychology, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 211 – 227, viewed <>

4) Kuppusamy, B., 2010, ‘Can Christians say “Allah”? In Malaysia, Muslims say no’, Time 8 January, viewed 2 November 2011, <>

5) McCombs, M. E. & Shaw, D. L., 1972, ‘Agenda-setting of the mass media’, The Public Opinion Quarterly <, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 176 – 187, viewed 9 November 2011,>

6) Neo, J. L., 2006, ‘Malay Nationalism, Islamic supremacy, and the constitutional bargain in the smulti-ethnic composition of Malaysia’, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, vol. 13, pp. 95 – 118, viewed 31 October 2011, <>

7) Pandi, A. R., 2011, ‘Blogging and political mobilization among minority Indians in Malaysia’, Ph.D. thesis, University of Hawai’i.

8) Reicher, S., 2004, ‘The context of social identity: Domination, resistance, and change’, Political Psychology, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 921 – 945, viewed 4 November 2011, <>

9) The Pulitzer Prizes, n. d., The medal: Pulitzer gold, viewed 5 November 2011, <>

10) Turner, J., 2007, ‘The messenger overwhelming the message: Ideological cues and perceptions of bias in television news’, Political Behaviour, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 441 – 464, viewed 10 November 2011, <>

11) Wilkinson, D., 1999, ‘Unipolarity without hegemony’, International Studies Review, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 141 – 172, viewed 11 November 2011, <>

12) Yeow, H. C., 2011, ‘Media Prima pulls out racist Ramadan ads’, The Malaysian Insider, < 2 August, viewed 8 November 2011>


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