Singapore is a good example for illustrating the wave of increasing commercialization of broadcasting industries in Asia.

Broadcasting in Singapore has seen a shift towards increasing commercialization and corporatisation in recent years. As of 31 March 1993, the former national broadcaster, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) had a total retained surplus of nearly S$360 million. With such impressive financial success, the government-held broadcasting as a statutory body was changed into a private company. This changing phase was underscored by the Ex-Minister for Information and the Arts, BG(NS) George Yeo.

He said, “ . . . We should go on the offensive and support our own values and way of life. . . . First we must ensure adequate funding of public service programmes. . . . The second is to facilitate the growth of Asian media companies who can take on the Western giants” (Yeo, 1994, pp. 104-5). On 1st October 1994, SBC was corporatised with the passing of the Singapore Broadcasting Act (SBA) 1994.

The corporatised successor companies to SBC are MediaCorp TV, MediaCorp Radio and MediaCorp Transmission and Technology (MTT), all of which come under a holding company -- Media Corporation of Singapore Pte Ltd (MediaCorp). MediaCorp News was added to the group in 1999.

The Singapore broadcasting landscape became even more competitive when the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) issued Singapore's second Nationwide Free-To-Air Television Service Licence to SPH MediaWorks on 26 April 2001. SPH MediaWorks Ltd started operating "Channel U", a mass Mandarin channel, and "TV Works", a mass English channel from May 2001.

Despite of having the intention of entering the international arena, the government has not dropped the ban on satellite dishes for private TV viewing. Only foreign embassies and financial institutions have the privilege to install the dishes. When the Gulf War broke out in 1991, Singapore’s financial institutions only learnt of it 30 seconds later than other international institution. Its financial markets took a severe hit due to this delay; and the government allowed the financial institutions to use satellite dishes ever since.

The objective of introducing greater competition in the broadcasting industry is to make the domestic broadcasters more competitive in the face of increasing foreign competition. As globalization takes place, domestic broadcasters will have to carve a niche for themselves in the international and regional broadcasting markets as the markets become borderless.

However, it must be noted that even though the Singaporebroadcasting scene is getting more competitive, it is still not a completely commercialized industry, as television owners still have to pay an annual Television and Vehicle Radio License fees, which are used to fund a wide range of Public Service Broadcast programmes, such as current affairs, information, culture, quality drama, children's and minority language programmes. Hence it can be seen that Singapore’s broadcasting industry actually occupies a middle ground between commercial and public service broadcasting models.

However, there are some general guidelines provided by the government that need to be followed. Programmes should not contain nudity and undue violence or vulgar language. Only foreign programmes that reflect Singapore’s government perceived and encouraged moral values can be shown in Singapore. Government officials are monitoring Singapore television broadcast news content. “While the government in Singapore is of the view that the broadcasters should work in support of the government, local television broadcast news, in particular, is nearly devoid of any story which may reflect negatively on the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) or the government’s activities and policies” (Media Asia, Vol 25 No 1, 1998).

We can see in the Singapore government’s broadcasting policies that even though the government realizes that increasing commercialization of domestic broadcasters is necessary for their survival against large transnational, commercial broadcasters, the government still sees the need for Public Service Broadcast programmes. This can be attributed to the following reasons.

First, Singapore, like many other South-east Asian countries, is a newly independent country, with only 36 years of independence. It is a country made up of mainly immigrants from China, India and other South-east Asian countries. The sense of national identity is especially weak. The government therefore sees the need for the use of the broadcast media to help foster a greater sense of national identity. Fostering national identity also helps improve ethnic relations. Singapore, again like many Asian countries, is made up of different ethnic groups, with a series of conflicts and enmity between the ethnic groups in recent history. The broadcasting media is perceived as an important tool in helping to promote harmonious relationships between different ethnic groups.

Second, the government also views the media as playing an important role in the propagation of ‘Asian’ values. The government sees the need for public service broadcasters to stem the flow of "decadent" ‘Western’ values. Citizens are in frequent contact with tourists and visitors of all national and cultural backgrounds from all over the world.

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