Feb 8, 2005. Old KBS office in KL.
The Press conference conducted by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said was packed to the rafters.
Biasalah, Menteri yang buat mesti penuh. Penuh dengan pegawai-pegawai, penyokong-penyokong, kaki-kaki ampu.
It was held to announce the Everton FC-Rakan Muda coaching clinic.
After the pleasantries in true Malaysian style and the details of the clinic were revealed to the Press, the floor was opened to questions.
Questions posed were initially restricted to the Everton-Rakan Muda announcement, until I asked the Honourable Minister:
"Boleh Datuk sahkan bahawa MSN akan menaja akhbar Malaysian Today sebanyak RM400,000 sebulan?"
Azalina: "Kita belum membuat apa-apa bayaran. Ia sebenarnya bayaran untuk pembelian iklan dalam akhbar itu."
Moi: "Tapi Datuk, kenapa MSN yang mengeluarkan belanja? Bukankah duit MSN untuk latihan prestasi tinggi khas untuk atlit, jurulatih dan persatuan?"
Azalina: "Kita faham media arus perdana mempunyai ruang yang terbatas untuk memberi publisiti yang meluas mengenai kegiatan sukan di negara ini."
Moi: "Kenapa MSN tidak melabur dalam the existing and established media houses?"
Azalina: "Nantilah, bila kita nak buy ad space dalam Malay Mail, I personally will call you, Rizal."
Balik ofis, kita pun ketuk lah story. Ini dia, published by Malay Mail the following day
NO money has been disbursed by the National Sports Council (NSC) to the
new sports newspaper, Malaysian Today.
However, Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said said an agreement
between the two parties was being drafted.
"We have not determined the amount because it is still subject to the
terms and conditions being drafted by our lawyers, one of which is some
form of editorial control on the paper," said Azalina in a Press
conference to announce the Everton-Rakan Muda football coaching clinics
Azalina reiterated the funding was meant to buy advertising space in the
bi-weekly paper which is expected to hit the streets on March 1.
It is however, learnt the amount that had been approved by the NSC
Board, of which Azalina is the chairman, was actually RM500,000, not
RM400,000 as reported earlier by this paper.
Azalina added buying advertising space in the paper will guarantee
publicity for NSC and their programmes for 2006 as well as the eight core
high-performance sports as part of the Ministry's effort to encourage a
culture for sports.
"We depend so much on print media and we understand the mainstream
papers have limited pages. It is also part of our promotional campaign
with other media establishments.
"But I can assure you the budget for sports development will be bigger,"
said Azalina, adding NSC director-general Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad has been
told to come up with a Press release regarding the issue first raised by
Sunday Mail earlier quoted sources as saying the 10-man NSC Board
chaired by Azalina in a meeting in December, had given the go-ahead for
the deal, which they felt was a diversion from the agency's role as the
body in charge of enhancing the performance of national athletes.
Backed by a prominent politician from Sarawak, Malaysian Today was
previously circulated in East Malaysia as an English tabloid paper but
relocated to Kuala Lumpur from Kuching last year.
The paper is to be published every Tuesday and Friday and distributed
free to selected colleges and universities.
It will also be sold at the vendors at just 50 sen. Circulation per
issue is 110,000 copies.
The NSC board comprise Azalina as the chair, Olympic Council of Malaysia
(OCM) president Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar, his deputy Datuk Dr M.
Jegathesan, former top civil servant Tan Sri Mohd Noordin Hassan, former
Army chief Tan Sri Zain Mahmud Hashim, Ministry Secretary-General, Datuk
Nik Mahmud Nik Yusof, Datuk Jamal Nasir Rasdi, Datuk Abdul Hamid Nazahar,
Datuk Mohamed Al-Amin Abdul Majid and Hanafi Ahmad.
Two days before the PC, Sunday Mail ran this story
A SPORTS newspaper has been dogged by controversy even before it is due to
hit the streets on March 1.
It is learnt that financing of the paper will come from public funds.
People familiar with the National Sports Council (NSC), a Government
agency established in 1971 as guardian of the nation's high-performance
sports programme, said NSC has given an undertaking to allocate a sum
amounting to RM5 million a year, or roughly RM400,000 a month, to help the
previously Kuching-based Malaysian Today relaunch its nationwide edition.
According to them, the 10-man NSC Board, chaired by Sports Minister
Datuk Azalina Othman Said, has given the go-ahead for the deal, which they
feel is a diversion from the agency's role as the body in charge of
enhancing the performance of national athletes.
Azalina, when met during the launch last Thursday, confirmed that NSC
has set aside an amount for what she called expenses for buying
advertising space in the paper.
But Azalina, who declined to disclose the amount, said: "It is common
practice for a Ministry to work closely with media establishments as one
way of getting our message across.
"The money will be used mainly for advertising purposes as and when the
need arises. We do not have a direct interest in the paper. The idea is
for us to buy advertorials and supplements in the paper and other major
newspapers as well, in line with our policy of working closely with our
media partners," said Azalina, adding that the Ministry has an existing
deal with a Bahasa Malaysia daily.
Backed by a group of politicians in Sarawak, Malaysian Today was
previously circulated in East Malaysia as an English-language tabloid
paper, but relocated to Kuala Lumpur from Kuching last year.
Asked whether the Ministry had a specific budget for advertising
purposes, Azalina said: "It will be on a basis of as and when."
She added the Ministry was in the middle of negotiations on buying
airtime with a TV station.
"We realise we cannot depend on our in-house newsletters if we were to
reach a wider audience," said Azalina.
Malaysian Today CEO Jessie Soon, when asked of the main source of income
of the paper, said it would come from advertising revenues.
"The NSC have used their funds to buy ad space in papers in the past.
For example, they tied up with Utusan Malaysia for the Rakan Muda
programme," she said.
"The NSC has expressed an interest in buying ad space in Malaysian Today
because we are a dedicated sports newspaper. Our relationship with the NSC
is no different from any relationship that we would have with any
"Both parties (NSC and Malaysian Today) share the same vision -
promoting sports and healthy lifestyle among youths in colleges and
universities where the paper will be distributed free.
"Malaysian Today is a private and family-owned paper and has sufficient
funds to sustain our bi-weekly operations."
The paper is to be published every Tuesday and Friday. While distributed
free at selected colleges and universities, it will also be sold by
vendors at 50 sen. Circulation per issue is 110,000 copies.
The NSC board comprises Azalina as the chair; Olympic Council of
Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar; his deputy Datuk Dr
M. Jegathesan; former top civil servant Tan Sri Mohd Noordin Hassan;
former Army chief Tan Sri Zain Mahmud Hashim, Ministry Secretary-General;
Datuk Nik Mahmud Nik Yusof, Datuk Jamal Nasir Rasdi; Datuk Abdul Hamid
Nazahar; Datuk Mohamed Al-Amin Abdul Majid and Hanafi Ahmad.
The paragraphs in bold were added without my knowledge. Of course I had no control over it but I was angry because what Jessie said was not true. The Utusan Malaysia tie-up was financed by the Ministry, not NSC. NSC is a statutory body under the auspices of the Ministry established under the NSC Act in 1971. I could have easily rebutted this if Jessie had spoken to me instead of someone else!
I have nothing personal against anybody. The issues centred on whether it was morally right for NSC, a government agency in charge of high-performance sports, to be involved in a lifestyle and sports newspaper. At RM500,000 a month to boot! What gives?! NSC's raison d'etre is to prepare a strong team for international assignments, not to promote a culture of sports among youth. We have the Sports Ministry, Jabatan Belia dan Sukan and sports for all programme to do that!
Under the powers vested in the Sports Minister, he or she has the legal right to park NSC's money wherever he or she wants to.
But morally? Am I wrong to question this?