DAP's online TV station ups stakes in cyber wars

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Opposition party DAP has taken the lead in Malaysia's political cyber war landscape, with its flagship online TV station set to launch later this week, in the run-up to the 13th general election.

Named UbahTV, after the party's hugely popular Ubah the hornbill mascot, the channel will feature round-the-clock programming, including live streams of ceramah featuring DAP and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

The channel will also showcase a talk show dubbed 'Fokus PRU 13', dedicated to covering electoral developments and issues.

UbahTV is not the only internet TV station as many have appeared on the Malaysian cyber landscape.

It is however is the first internet TV openly owned and operated by a political party, and the first to represent a cohesive and concerted effort to showcase its party propaganda.

The UbahTV portal features a clean, streamlined design geared for speedy access, the only embellishments being links to a Twitter feed, a programme schedule and a donation page.

A counterbalance

DAP national publicity chief Tony Pua said that UbahTV's purpose is to counterbalance BN's advantage in monopolising the mainstream media, including national broadcaster RTM, in terms of publicity.

He told Malaysiakini that the party started its trial run on March 1, and will officially launch tomorrow.

Although there are many live streaming videos of ceramah by DAP and other Pakatan leaders, Pua ( left ) said these were contributed by supporters.

He however noted that Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming has his own live stream online channel to broadcast his ceramah live.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP claimed that UbahTV had received a strong response from netizens. Each show draws an audience from a few hundred to a few thousand.

The show which received highest rating so far, he said, was the announcement by PKR de-facto leader Anwar Ibrahim last week that DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang would contest for the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.

Not unique

As Pua mentioned, live-streaming is not unique amongst political parties, PKR for example started its official live streams six months ago, and PAS pioneered internet video portal with its ground-breaking PAS.TV which even predated popular video sharing website Youtube, at the start of the millennium circa 2000.

PKR national organising secretary Radin Shamsulkamar said that the party does all the live broadcasts via Livestream.com, an online video portal. It however does not operate its own server like DAP does.

DAP is therefore the first to maintain its own servers and effectively publicise and capitalise on the model.

PKR's live stream is less well known and PASTV has lost steam, inactive after its funds ran out.

It was also faced with technical challenges before current internet video streaming technologies were developed.

"The trend is very encouraging, every time we do live, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 people watching online," Radin ( left ) said when contacted by Malaysiakini, adding that there are also viewers from overseas watching live broadcasts.

He said that the number of viewers broke through 5,000 when the party was doing live broadcasts of the People's Uprising rally on Jan 12.

Talk shows

Besides its online channel, DAP's YouTube channel is also well received in the cyber world, with more than 3,000 subscribers and over 1,500,000 views on all its videos.

Many propaganda videos, talk shows, and their general election campaign theme song 'Ubah' and others have been uploaded to it.

On the other hand, the response to MCA's YouTube channel is less encouraging as it has close to only 400 subscribers and roughly 400,000 views to the videos.

More than 800 videos have been uploaded to the channel, including MCA president Chua Soi Lek's ( right ) video blogs and clips of MCA leaders slamming their opponents in ceramah.

Malaysiakini had contacted Loh Seng Kok in charge of MCA's cyber warfare unit, though he had declined to comment for the moment, citing a busy schedule.

Asked about BN's response to this new development, Izzudin Razali of Barisan Nasional Youth Cyber Team (BNYCT) said that he knew that something new was in the works but he could not comment as he was not fully briefed on it.

He did say that for BN, specifically Umno's Unit Media Baru, he believed their challenge is to "answer the fitnah (slander) from the other side with facts".

Up for grabs

Asked who he thought was winning the online political war, he said that the matter is still up for grabs.

"I cannot say who is winning, but the current online battle is very fierce. In cyber war we can shoot and no one really dies, so we can shoot time and time again."

Izzudin said that as for himself and BNYCT, their focus is on "increasing the number of pro-BN people in social media circles and increase the support for BN online.

"We seek submissions from talented individuals who are pro-BN, in the form of articles, video or caricatures and if they are good enough, we will buy the material, and put it online at our site ."

Malaysiakini tried to contact representatives from the Unit Media Baru, to no avail.

As things stand however, it appears that BN is still one step behind Pakatan, and DAP in particular as it is still depending on crowd-sourcing, as Pakatan had done, instead of developing its own content cohesively on a cogent platform like UbahTV.

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