Public Service Broadcast Review Panel makes recommendations

02/03/2012

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCAST (PSB) REVIEW PANEL MAKES RECOMMENDATIONS

RECOMMENDS ENHANCEMENTS TO PSB DELIVERY

The Public Service Broadcast (PSB) Review Panel has completed its review on enhancing the delivery of PSB programmes and submitted its recommendations to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). The panel's recommendations to enhance the provision of PSB content focus on two key areas: i) enhancing the quality and appeal of PSB content; and ii) extending the reach of PSB content beyond traditional free-to-air (FTA) TV channels.

2.     The eight-member panel was set up in October 2010 to review the delivery of PSB programmes and recommend ways to maximise the reach and impact of PSB in Singapore. The panel is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Ms Grace Fu. It comprises members from the community, media industry, and academia (see Annex B for details on panel members).

Key observations

3.     The panel is heartened to note from research data that there is public affinity for PSB programmes. Based on the PSB public perception survey[1] commissioned by the panel, eight in 10 respondents were satisfied with the current standards of PSB content.The panel also noted that FTA TV remains the local media platform with the highest daily reach in Singapore.

4.     At the same time, the panel recognises that the media consumption habits of local audiences have changed as a result of digitalisation. More media choices and the increasing ease of access to global content via multiple broadcast platforms and the Internet are leading to audience fragmentation in Singapore.The panel notes that these have an impact on the reach of FTA TV. Hence, the panel recommends that the current PSB framework must be strengthened for PSB to remain relevant and appealing to the public. The quality and accessibility of PSB content must be continually enhanced to meet these challenges.

Recommendations

5.     The panel has recommended several strategic measures to raise the quality and appeal of PSB programming and to widen the reach of these programmes beyond traditional FTA channels. These recommendations also seek to benefit public viewing interests and contribute to the development of the media industry in Singapore.

Improve key components of local PSB production

6.     To raise the standards of local PSB programmes, the panel has recommended that adequate resources be channelled to enhance key components of the production process, such as story-planning, scripting and research, and to ensure sufficient time for filming and post-production.

7.     The panel further recommended the development of programme pilots, in line with industry best practices, which could be audience-tested to explore the viability of new ideas and turn promising concepts into full PSB programmes.The panel believes that such pilots would help to enhance audience engagement.

Enhance resources to develop talent

8.     The development of creative talent, particularly story-planners and scriptwriters, is critical to producing high-quality PSB content. The panel has recommended that MDA identify public- and private-sector partners to nurture local talents through sustained training, attachment and talent-matching plans.

9.     The panel also believes there should be more synergy between institutes of higher learning, MDA and other public agencies to ensure a better match between the curricula of media courses and industry needs.

Extend PSB reach to non-FTA platforms

10.     The panel has recommended that PSB content be extended to non-FTA platforms to reach out to more audiences and leverage on the popularity of new media. Potential new platforms include local online multimedia sites like MediaCorp's xinmsn and Singapore Press Holdings' RazorTV, and nationwide pay-TV platforms such as StarHub TV and SingTel's mio TV.

11.     The panel has also suggested that the scope of the Public Service Content Scheme administered by the Media Development Authority (MDA)[2] be revamped to serve this purpose.

12.     By extending PSB content to non-FTA platforms, this will also help spur programming quality through: i) the competitive pitching of PSB programme proposals from producers; and ii) the provision of alternative platforms for the commissioning of local content.

13.     The panel also recommended that MDA must put in place a mechanism to ensure that PSB content carried on non-FTA platforms is eventually made available free of charge to the public.

Maximising PSB reach through dubbing/subtitling and publicity

14.     To maximise PSB's reach and stretch the funding dollar, the panel also proposes that local broadcasters could place more emphasis on adapting or subtitling a programme in other languages for telecast on other language channels. The panel commended existing efforts such as the dubbing of Mandarin drama The Little Nyonya in Malay for Suria viewers, and the subtitling of selected programmes on Vasantham in English to cater to the larger Indian community. Panel members recommended that such efforts should be stepped up.

MICA to review the recommendations

15.     MICA is currently studying the panel's recommendations and expects it to be completed by June this year. MICA would like to express its appreciation to the panel members and former chairman Mr Sam Tan (former Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Communications and the Arts) for their contributions to the review.

16.     A summary of the panel's key findings and recommendations, background information on the panel and background information on PSB in Singapore can be found in Annexes A, B and C, respectively.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS & THE ARTS

2 MARCH 2012

Annexes:

A: Summary of PSB Review Panel's findings and recommendations

B: Background and terms of reference of PSB Review Panel

C: Background on PSB in Singapore

ANNEX A

Summary of PSB Review Panel's Key Findings and Recommendations

(I) Key observations

Value of PSB

The panel recognises that internationally and in Singapore, a high value is placed on public service broadcast (PSB) as an important means of reflecting and shaping national and cultural identity, as well as catering to the public's diverse viewing interests. There is added significance for PSB in the Singapore context, given the heterogeneous population and the aim of PSB to help foster a common identity and shared heritage while celebrating Singapore's multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

Broadcast media landscape in Singapore

2.     The panel observes that globally, the broadcast media landscape is evolving rapidly, with multi-channel broadcasting, increasing media convergence and greater ease of access to new media platforms.These have led to audience fragmentation and the erosion of the reach of traditional terrestrial broadcast platforms. The experience in Singapore is similar. A growing proportion of the population, particularly the young, is turning to online platforms for multimedia content. Global sites like YouTube, Facebook and Tudou.com rank among the most-accessed multimedia sites in Singapore. The impending rollout of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN) and a rise in the ownership of Internet-enabled TV sets would further enhance ease of access to foreign multimedia content, thereby increasing the trend of eyeballs being drawn away from local broadcast platforms.As such, it is important for PSB to remain relevant and appealing in order to retain the public's mindshare.

Existing PSB framework

3.     Regarding the existing PSB framework, the panel observes that FTA TV is the primary platform for the delivery of PSB programmes. The panel notes that the Media Development Authority (MDA) provides annual funding to MediaCorp to support the provision of PSB programmes to the public, and agreed with the approach taken to put in place requirements for the outsourcing of PSB productions to the independent production sector, as this would contribute to more diverse and creative ideas for PSB content.

4.     The panel notes that beyond the annual PSB funding arrangement with MediaCorp, MDA also administers the Public Service Content (PSC) Scheme, which provides producers with a pool of contestable funds to bid for by pitching their ideas. Panel members feel there is value in such a contestable pool to spur creative ideas and create alternative avenues for the support of PSB, though they also note that the scheme is largely linked to projects carried on FTA TV.

5.     The panel notes that MDA had embarked on initial efforts to introduce PSB content online in the form of short video clips created as online extensions of PSB TV series[3]. However, the Panel feels that there is room to further leverage on the potential of online platforms in extending the reach of PSB.

6.     In addition, the panel notes that radio has a role to play in supplementing PSB messages, particularly news and information, and agreed with the current approach to extend PSB funding to FTA radio stations catering to special interest and community needs.

PSB performance

7.     The panel observes that overall, funded PSB content has been delivered in a cost-efficient way and currently enjoys good reach among audiences.For instance the total reach[4] of funded locally-produced PSB programmes was about 4.5 million viewers, close to 95% of those aged four years and above[5].

8.     In addition, based on the PSB Public Perception Survey[6] commissioned as part of the panel's review to ascertain public views on PSB standards, the following findings are noted:

i)Respondents gave a mean score of 3.8 out of five points when rating how well PSB programmes[7] were deemed to display the desired PSB characteristics of 'quality, informative value and engagement';

ii)In terms of rating the effectiveness of PSB objectives/messages for sampled programmes, respondents gave scores ranging from 3.5 to 4.05 out of five points (based on the range of titles representing the various PSB objectives);

iii) In terms of the public's overall satisfaction with the standard of PSB, six in 10 respondents indicated that they were highly satisfied, and eight in 10 respondents indicated that they were satisfied; and

iv)The panel also notes that survey findings show nine in 10 respondents were either satisfied with the current output or wanted to see more PSB content.

9.     The panel observes that while past PSB performance has been satisfactory, the standards of PSB content must continually be raised to retain viewership amidst the multitude of alternative viewing choices available to the public as well as the impact of audience fragmentation on the reach of local TV platforms which carry PSB programmes today.

FTA TV remains key to PSB delivery but reach and impact affected by digitalisation

10.     Against a global backdrop of digital broadcasting and audience fragmentation, the panel was concerned that the reach of FTA TV is being eroded. There was a marked decline in the daily reach of FTA TV over the past years, which dropped from 92% in 2005 to 75% in 2011[8] .In the same period, eyeballs were shifting to pay TV and the Internet, with the latter having a daily reach of 62% in 2011 compared to a reach of 43% in 2005.

11.     Despite the decline in the daily reach of FTA TV, the panel notes from the PSB Public Perception Survey that FTA TV was the preferred broadcast platform among nine in 10 respondents. Respondents also identified the importance of FTA TV viewing to family bonding.

Opportunities presented by non-FTA platforms for PSB

12.     As consumers' viewing habits move towards 'anytime, anywhere' viewing on platforms beyond FTA TV, the panel notes the opportunity to leverage on selected non-FTA TV and new media platforms to deliver PSB to the public.

13.     While FTA TV would continue to be an important conduit for PSB delivery, the opportunities presented by non-FTA platforms should be exploited to extend the reach of PSB in the light of changing media consumption habits.

Past funding increases catered for more PSB content to meet diverse viewing needs

14.     The panel observes that while PSB has been delivered in a cost-efficient way, past increases in PSB funding have generally been directed towards the provision of more PSB content to cater to diverse viewing needs. The panel highlights the need to also raise the quality and appeal of PSB productions.However, with limited funding resources and rising production costs, producers have not been able to channel more resources to key areas of production such as research for story development, story-planning, scripting and filming timeframes, which have a bearing on programme quality.

(II) Key recommendations

15.     To meet the various challenges identified by the panel in its observations of the current PSB framework, the panel has made recommendations based on the following strategic areas: i) improving the quality and appeal of PSB; and ii) extending the reach of PSB.

Raise quality of PSB programming on FTA TV

16.     The panel has recommended that it is imperative to provide quality content to engage the public.To raise the standards of local PSB programmes on FTA TV, adequate resources should be channelled to enhance key components of the production process, such as story-planning, scripting and research, and to ensure adequate time for filming and post-production.

17.     While channeling resources to raise both the quality and output of PSB programmes would be ideal, the panel recognises that resources are finite and hence recommends that the priority for any funding increases should be to raise the quality of local PSB content.

18.     While the panel did not delve into deliberating on the optimal number of PSB hours needed in the Singapore context, it feels that a balance would be required in allocating resources to address the quality of PSB programmes and to sustain a suitable level of PSB content to serve diverse public interests.

19.     To help address programme quality, the panel notes industry best practices in using audience-based research and the testing of concepts to better guide the development of PSB programmes. Therefore, the panel recommends that dedicated funding be provided to support the development of programme pilots to explore the viability of new ideas and develop promising concepts into full PSB programmes.

Enhance resources to develop talent

20.     The panel concurs with industry feedback that the development of talents is critical to producing high-quality content and should not be neglected.Hence, the panel has proposed that sustained training efforts would be needed to nurture creative talent, particularly story-planners and scriptwriters.In the longer run, other gaps in capability development for production should also be identified and addressed. MICA and MDA could identify potential public- and private-sector partners to further this initiative through sustained training, attachment and talent-matching plans.

Extend the reach of PSB to multiple platforms

21.     The panel has strongly recommended that PSB content be extended to non-FTA platforms to reach more audiences and leverage upon the popularity of new media. Potential new platforms include local online multimedia sites like MediaCorp's xinmsn and Singapore Press Holdings' RazorTV, and nationwide pay-TV platforms such as StarHub TV and SingTel's mio TV. The panel has also suggested that the scope of the Public Service Content Scheme administered by the Media Development Authority (MDA)[9] be revamped to serve this purpose.

22.     The panel believes that extending the reach of PSB content to non-FTA platforms via a contestable funding mechanism will also help spur programming quality through: i) the competitive pitching of PSB programme proposals from producers; and ii) the provision of alternative platforms for the commissioning of local content.

23.     The panel has also recommended that MDA must put in place a mechanism to ensure that PSB content carried on non-FTA platforms is eventually made available free of charge to the public.

Other recommendations

24.     The panel has also made the following recommendations:

i)Enhance support for FTA radio

The panel recognises the importance of FTA radio as an important platform for PSB, as it is particularly effective in providing news and information to the public on the move.Members recommend a review of existing funding allocations for PSB radio programmes in accordance with the needs of target audiences served by the various stations.

ii)Review efforts in talent placement and ascertain manpower needs of broadcast industry

The panel recommends that there should be more synergy between institutes of higher learning, other public agencies and the MDA in reviewing the manpower and skills-set needs of the broadcast industry. For instance, there could also be more links between MDA, institutes of higher learning and other public agencies to ensure that the curricula for media courses are relevant and that students entering the industry are equipped with the appropriate skills.

iii)Maximise PSB reach through dubbing/subtitling and adequate publicity

To maximise PSB's reach and stretch the funding dollar, the panel also proposes that local broadcasters could place more emphasis on adapting or subtitling a programme in other languages for telecast on other language channels. The panel commends existing efforts such as the Malay dubbing of Mandarin drama The Little Nyonya for Suria viewers, and the subtitling of selected programmes on Vasantham in English to cater to the larger Indian community. The panel feels that such efforts should be stepped up.

The panel is also of the view that the broadcast of PSB programmes must be backed by adequate publicity, including cross-platform or cross-channel promotion to raise awareness of quality programmes among a wider audience.

iv)Guide programming strategies and outcomes through audience research and testing

The panel suggests that in line with industry best practices, local broadcasters should take the initiative to use more audience-based research and testing of programme pilots to guide their programming strategies and help achieve the desired outcomes of PSB.

(III) Conclusion

25.     The panel is of the view that while the past performance of PSB was generally acceptable, the current framework must be improved to sustain the effective delivery of PSB and a viable local broadcast and production industry, given the challenges posed by the changing media landscape and cost increases. The panel concludes that ultimately, it is the provision of quality, engaging content that will appeal most to the public and anchor audiences to local broadcast platforms and PSB content.In its key recommendations, the panel has therefore proposed enhancements to PSB to improve the quality of PSB programmes, extend PSB to multiple platforms, and nurture talent to ensure that PSB remains effective and relevant.Strong content, leveraging on key strategic platforms and robust industry talent would ultimately contribute to ensuring the provision of quality PSB content with wide reach and positive impact.

ANNEX B

PSB Review Panel

Background

In October 2010, the Public Service Broadcast (PSB) Review Panel was set up to review the performance of PSB in Singapore and recommend strategic areas of improvement to MICA to enhance PSB delivery.

2.     The eight-member panel was appointed by then Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Mr Lui Tuck Yew. It comprises community, industry, academic and government representatives, and was chaired by then Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Communications and the Arts, Mr Sam Tan, from October 2010 to May 2011. In June 2011, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, Ms Grace Fu, took over as the panel chairperson.

3.     To aid its deliberation, the following was conducted (i) PSB public perception survey to ascertain public views on PSB performance, (ii) an industry consultation with representatives for local broadcasters and independent production companies.

Terms of reference

4.     The panel's terms of reference are:

i)Review the performance of PSB programming for the period of FY09 and FY10 (April 2009 to March 2011);

ii)Provide an independent opinion on whether PSB programming has met its objectives and has delivered value for money;

iii)Recommend strategic areas of improvement to maximise the reach and impact of PSB in Singapore across target demographics and in a multi-platform environment; and

iv)Recommend if additional resources are required and how best to allocate the resources in order to achieve the desired objectives of PSB.

Composition of PSB Review Panel

  • Chairperson: Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR)

Community representatives

  • Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Chairman, Malay Programmes Advisory Committee
  • Associate Professor Lee Cheuk Yin, Chairman, Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes
  • Professor Leo Tan Wee Hin, former chairman, Programme Advisory Committee for English Programmes
  • Mr R. Rajaram, Vice-Chairman, Indian Programmes Advisory Committee

Industry representative

  • Mr Ganesh Rajaram, Senior Vice-President - Asia, FremantleMedia Enterprises

Academic representative

  • Dr Suzaina Abdul Kadir, Senior Lecturer, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

MICA representative

  • RADM (NS) Sim Gim Guan, Deputy Secretary (Information and Corporate Management), MICA

ANNEX C

PSB in Singapore

Since 1994, the Media Development Authority (MDA, previously known as the Singapore Broadcasting Authority [SBA]) has supported the provision of PSB through the collection of radio and TV (RTV) licence fees. The fees were abolished on 1 January 2011 and PSB is now funded directly by the Government.

Guiding principles of PSB delivery

2.     MDA is guided by the following principles in its administration of PSB:

Vision, mission, PSB characteristics

i) PSB vision - To foster a connected society through quality, engaging and informative public service content that has reach and impact;

ii) PSB mission - To inform, educate and engage Singaporeans by supporting the development of a range of quality content that fulfils PSB objectives;

iii) PSB characteristics - The characteristics of PSB programmes are quality, informative value and engagement.

PSB objectives

PSB programmes must meet one or more of the following national and social objectives:

i) Promote social values (e.g., family togetherness, community bonding, social inclusiveness and cohesiveness);

ii) Celebrate our culture and heritage;

iii) Promote racial and religious harmony, including minority programming, minority representation in other programming;

iv) Promote the Singapore identity;

v) Stimulate knowledge and learning (including factual and educational programmes targeting children, youth and the general population); and

vi) Foster an informed society (including news, information and analysis of current affairs that increase understanding of the world).

Range of PSB content

To ensure a range of quality content to cater to the public's diverse viewing interests, PSB programmes cover a range of genres, including:

  • Information programmes (e.g. current affairs, info-education, documentaries)
  • Children's programmes;
  • Programmes for the elderly;
  • Dramas;
  • Programmes on arts, culture and heritage;
  • Sports programmes; and
  • Infotainment/variety shows (including festive specials)

[1] The PSB Public Perception Survey was commissioned to aid the panel's deliberations.The survey was conducted by The Nielsen Company (Singapore) during the period of January to March 2011 to ascertain the public's views on the performance of PSB. The sample was 1,000 Singapore residents (citizens/PRs) aged 15 years and above.

[2] The Public Service Content Scheme allows any eligible local media company to contest for PSB funds via MDA's call for proposals.

[3] These are uploaded on xinmsn, a tie-up between MediaCorp and MSN.It is surveyed as being the top local video site and also ranks as the third most accessed multimedia website in Singapore.About 20% of its users are aged 15-24 years (source: comScore).

[4] 'Reach' refers to the percentage or number of unduplicated viewers who tune in to a programme for at least five consecutive minutes (based on Kantar Media's TV Audience Measurement system).

[5] Source: Kantar Media (for April-March 2011)

[6] The PSB Public Perception Survey was commissioned to support the deliberations of the PSB Review Panel.The survey was conducted by The Nielsen Company (Singapore) during the period of January to March 2011 to ascertain the public's views on the performance of PSB. The sample size was 1,000 Singapore residents (citizens/PRs) aged 15 years and above.

[7] Based on a sampling of PSB programmes in the period of review.

[8] Source: Nielsen Media Index

[9] The Public Service Content Scheme allows any eligible local media company to contest for PSB funds via MDA's call for proposals.

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