MCI's response to PQ on Dialect Usage on Free to air Radio and Television Services
Parliament Sitting on 9 January 2024
QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
52. Mr Yip Hon Weng: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) what are the reasons for the ongoing restriction of dialects on free-to-air (FTA) radio and television; and (b) considering the elderly’s potentially limited access to pay TV and internet for entertainment, whether the Ministry will consider fully lifting the dialect usage restrictions for FTA services.
Mr Speaker, the Government’s longstanding policy is to promote the use of Mandarin as one of our four official languages. Free-to-Air (FTA) TV and radio cater to a wide range of audiences and are therefore required to offer Chinese services in Mandarin.
Nonetheless, dialect content remains available. Mediacorp’s Channel 8 provides a dedicated belt of dialect programmes every Friday morning. Its radio station Capital 95.8FM offers daily news bulletins in various dialects. Dialect is also allowed for operatic performances or when the Mandarin terms are not commonly used. Dialect content is available on other platforms as well, such as Mediacorp’s meWATCH, online platforms like YouTube, videos and music albums in retail stores, as well as through outdoor and theatrical performances.
There are currently no plans to allow more dialect programmes on FTA TV and radio. An MCI study in 2023 found that almost 7 in 10 respondents chose Mandarin as the language that they can read or listen in. A very small number chose dialect exclusively. In addition, more than half of the respondents across all age groups felt that the amount of dialect content on FTA TV and radio should remain at the current level.
That said, we will continue to monitor Singaporeans’ views and demand towards dialect content and are prepared to lift the restrictions when the need arises, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic to facilitate health-related information dissemination.
 For internal information only: 0.1 percent of Chinese respondents chose dialect only as the language that they can read or listen in.