Taylor's FSLM Journals
The Representation of Government Agencies in the Health Debates on Radio Frequency (RF) Exposure in Malaysia

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

*Prasana Rosaline Fernandez, Surinderpal Kaur & Ng Kwan Hoong


Government departments and agencies are an important stakeholder group in risk communication specifically on environmental risks as they are directly involved in the implementation of guidelines and policies and in the communication of relevant initiatives to the public. Entrusted with policy-making and legislative powers, they therefore play a crucial role in the rising health debates on radio frequency (RF) emissions from telecommunication structures. RF exposure from the proliferation of base stations and rooftop antennas in Malaysia triggers concerns as a growing number of people claim that it is cancer causing and as such a health hazard. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate the representation of the various social actors in the government departments and agencies in Malaysia in the health debates on RF exposure from telecommunication structures. Using van Leeuwen’s social actor framework, this research aims to reveal the kinds of identities that are embedded in the discourse, specifically on how this group of social actors represent themselves in the health debates. The data is from five (5) face-to-face interviews with representatives from the regulator of the telecommunication industry, the health department and the local town councils. The findings suggest that the members of this stakeholder group are decision makers and interdependent in handling this perceived health risk. Yet they passivate the other, though they are part of the same stakeholder group, for lack of commitment and this blame avoidance hinders effective risk communication.

Keywords: Social actor, Representation, Risk communication, Government, Radio frequency