Digital Media in Brunei
The Sultanate of Brunei, officially known as Negara Brunei Darussalam, is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. The country’s rich history varies from the sultanate’s heyday between the 15th and 17th century to the period of decline brought by the European colonizers, until independence was achieved from the British protectorate in 1984. Political power has been held by the same family for over six centuries. Today, Brunei enjoys its extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is ranked 5th in the world by GDP per capita. In addition, Brunei has the second highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asia nations after Singapore. Hence, the country is classified as a developed country. The official language is Malay, and in 2012 the population was estimated at 408,786.
The relatively young and urban population of Brunei is beginning to demand wider variety in media, particularly with the increasing presence of the internet in daily life. The following sections on this page describe the young but quickly evolving digital media scene in Brunei.
- 1 Digital Literacy
- 2 Digital Media Platforms
- 3 Traditional Media Platforms
- 4 Impacts of Digital Media
- 5 Expert Opinions
- 6 Case Study
- 7 References
The urbanization rate of Brunei is high at 76%, and the average age is 27 years. Overall, the population is highly literate and educated. In addition, most Bruneians enjoy the financial means necessary to invest in the latest media hardware and software.
Internet penetration in Brunei is mediocre. According to the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations, as of 2012 there are 318,900 netizens living in Brunei and the internet penetration rate is at 79%. However, the internet subscriber penetration in terms of population is notably low, at 14%; in terms of households, the figure is 52%. Moreover, also the fixed line penetration is currently at only 19%; in 2001, the rate had reached a healthy level at 26%, but has declined since. Around 85% of the internet subscribers have high-speed broadband access. In order to enhance the country’s overall broadband access, the government issued a National Broadband Blueprint (NBB) in 2007. Wireless broadband access services are at center in this plan, and currently they are seeing rapid take-up. Mobile broadband entered in 2007, accounting for 36% of total subscribers and 78% of new subscribers that year.
Brunei’s internet service is monopolized by Brunet, a department of Telekom Brunei (TelBru).
Mobile penetration is booming in Brunei. By early 2012 the mobile market reached a penetration of 120% with 505,000 subscriptions, and the figure is expected to reach 125% (530,000) by the end of 2012. Telecommunications infrastructure and services throughout Brunei are of a generally high standard. Thus, the country ranks well in Southeast Asia in terms of both mobile penetration and infrastructure facilities.
There are currently two mobile network operators in Brunei, namely B-Mobile and DSTCom, with market shares at 24% and 76%, respectively. Of these carriers B-mobile operates only solely on UMTS technology (3G), whereas DSTCom provides operates in addition to 3G also GSM (2G) and HSDPA (3G+) networks.
Digital Media Platforms
Top 10 to Follow
- Delwin Keasberry on ProjekBrunei and Twitter
- Rano Iskandar on RanoAdidas and Twitter
- Geek in White
- Dinoza Maruf on Borneo Colours and Twitter
- Muhammad Reeda Hj Malik blogging and on Twitter
- Ak Shareen Pg Metassan blogging
- Azhani Daniel on Twitter
- Keeran Janin on Twitter
- Dato Timothy Ong on Twitter
- The Brunei Times website and on Twitter and Facebook
In recent years, there has been a surge in blogs and other new media networks. The first successful blog in terms of monetisation was social news site Rano Adidas by Rano Iskandar. The blog was launched in 2002 as a hobby, but has developed to be the most widely viewed blog in the country. Another highly popular blog is Delwin Keasberry's ProjekBrunei, a news and social media site.
Social Networking Sites With a total of 234,060 users, the Facebook penetration rate is 57.3% in terms of total population and 73.4% in terms of internet population. The total number of Facebook users grew by more than 12,340 in the last 6 months. In terms of demographics, the largest age group is currently 18 - 24 with total of 74,899 users, followed by the users in the age of 25 - 34. There are equally 50% male and 50% female users.
Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) / Forums
When it comes to forums, the online conversation scene is very active in Brunei. The range of discussion forums' topics varies greatly. Also, there are several different forum platforms available. Here are a few examples on popular Brunei forums.
YouTube is highly popular in Brunei. Although exact data on Bruneian YouTube accounts is missing, a brief search in YouTube reveals that Bruneians are eager on video sharing. For instance, in 2010 a YouTube video of a young Bruneian man pleading forgiveness to his girlfriend became a hit. The video generated over 41,000 hits in a span of only three days, and it became a popular trending topic on social networks: Facebook, Twitter and the video itself on YouTube were buzzing with comments with many netizens, reactions varying from sympathizing with the young man to loathe the whole video episode.
Top 5 Places in Brunei  by check-ins
- Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Gadong
- The Empire Hotel & Country Club Brunei
- Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium
- The Arch Taurean Cafe, Gadong
- International Convention Centre (ICC)
Traditional Media Platforms
Media in Brunei is extremely pro-government. According to the Freedom house the country’s press status is “not free”. On the scale of 0 to 100 Brunei rates 75 in terms of freedom of press. The diversity of media content is limited in Brunei and for example newspapers have to apply for annual publishing permits.
The Government controls Radio Television Brunei (RTB) which operates the country’s one television station and has 5 channels. Cable television has been made available by a private company, Astro-Kristal. In addition to this Bruneians can see Malaysian broadcasts and international news via satellite channels.
The country’s main English-language daily newspaper is called Borneo Bulletin. In addition, there are two local Malay newspapers: Media Permata and Pelita Brunei. Media Permata is issued daily, and Pelita Brunei bi-weekly. Both Borneo Bulletin and Media Permata are published by Brunei Press Sdn Bhd; Pelita Brunei by the government's Information Department. Since 2006 The Brunei Times, an English independent newspaper, has been published. There are also several Chinese-language newspapers available. See the table below for daily circulation figures of each newspaper.
Radio Television Brunei (RTB) operates five radio networks broadcasting on multiple frequencies. British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS) runs two FM stations. Some radio broadcast stations from Malaysia are available via repeaters.
Impacts of Digital Media
Bruneins are slow in integrating latest trends but they are also not afraid to speak their mind when they are unhappy about the government or the royal family as they are very pro nation. They also practice self censorship and generally do not wish to speak about sensitive topics.
The Public Media in Brunei is higly pro-governments. The government controls and influences the media strongly.
The society of Brunei is generally conservative, with Islam playing a major part in most Bruneians' lives. The Sultanate is run under the principles of the Malay Muslim Monarchy, a guiding line of precepts for everyone - from traditional media publishers to bloggers and tweeters. In addition, there are firm rules defining acceptable media behavior.
Mr. Delwin is the Programming Manager at Asia Inc Forum, Founder of ProjekBrunei and the owner of the Brunei’s most social tweeter account @Bruneitweet.
In the interview, he shares his insights on how Brunei's background has influenced the online population's behaviour and how is has formed the unique characteristic of Brunei's Digital Media market. We also discussed about the history and trend of Brunei’s Digital Media development. And how has it affected the companies to use Digital Media as a Public Relation and marketing tools.
The podcast can be listened via Posterous.
Brunei's first Social Media Meetup
In October 2011 Brunei's first Social Media Meetup was held. The meeting gathered bloggers and twitterers around Brunei to "That's where it's @". Radisson Hotel in Bandar Seri Begawasn hosted the event and there were altogether around 80 attendants in the event. The hashtag to follow was #socmedbn. A panel discussion was held during the event and there were altogether three sessions. The first session was called "Dude, Where's my traffic?", the second session was about "140 character or less: Why joined the twitter conversation" and the last session's topic was "From Idea to Enterprise: What does it take?" The guests in the panel were Rano Iskandar @ranoadidas of ranoadidas.com, who is the No.1 Social Commercial Blogger in Brunei, Delwin Keasberry @BruneiTweet of projectbrunei.com, who is Brunei's No.1 Twitter star and Dinoza Maruf @Dinoza of Breeze Magazine.
Brunei's first Tweet-up of 2012
In February 2012 Brunei's first Tweet-up of 2012, the FAB February Tweet Up, was held. There were about hundered people of the online community in Brunei participating. The main idea was to organize a casual online catch up with Bruneians. There is also a video about the meeting.
- The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2011. Oxford Business Group.
- The Report: Brunei Darussalam 2011. Oxford Business Group.