Government accepts recommendations by PSB Review Panel

25/07/2012

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) has accepted the recommendations made by the Public Service Broadcast (PSB) Review Panel to enhance the quality and increase the reach of PSB programmes.  MICA will provide a funding of $630 million over five years (Financial Year 2012 to 2016) for the implementation of the recommendations.  This represents an increase of about 35 per cent from the PSB funding of $470 million over the last five years (Financial Year 2007 to 2011).

The eight-member panel was set up in October 2010 to review the performance of PSB programmes and recommend ways to enhance the quality and maximise the reach of PSB.  It comprised representatives from the community, media industry and academia. The panel was chaired by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts (ICA), who took over from Mr Sam Tan, then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary (ICA), who was Chairman from October 2010 to May 2011.

Key observations made by the panel

The panel has made the following key observations, which guided the formulation of its recommendations:

  • Free-to-air (FTA) TV, which is the dominant local media platform, will continue to play a key role in the delivery of PSB programmes.  At the same time, the Government should leverage on the potential that the Internet and non-FTA platforms offer to extend the reach of PSB programmes to more Singaporeans.
  • It is quality PSB content that will attract, engage and sustain audiences.
  • The development of a strong national FTA broadcaster with wide reach and a sustainable independent production sector will be important aspects of an effective PSB delivery framework. 

Panel’s recommendations accepted

MICA has accepted the panel’s recommendations which focus on the following key areas (please refer to Annex A for the full list of recommendations and MICA’s responses):

Revise PSB funding to enhance quality of PSB content on FTA TV

The panel has recommended that adequate resources be channeled to improve the quality of local PSB productions on FTA TV, including the introduction of audience-tested pilots.

In supporting this recommendation, the majority of the funding provided by MICA will be channelled to raising the quality of local PSB productions on FTA TV, as MICA recognises that FTA TV continues to be the dominant local broadcast platform from which to reach our audiences.  Specifically, the allocation will focus on areas that will boost production quality, such as research and story-planning.  The Media Development Authority (MDA) will also introduce and fund the production of programme pilots that will be audience-tested before production begins.

Extend the reach of PSB content

The panel has recommended that the broadcast of PSB content be extended to non-FTA local platforms, particularly selected local online multimedia platforms and pay TV platforms.

MICA recognises the potential of the Internet and local pay TV platforms in extending the reach of PSB programmes.  To facilitate this, the MDA will set up a contestable funds scheme. The scheme will take into account the reach of the participating platform as well as ensure that PSB content carried by any non-FTA participating platform will subsequently be made available to the public.

Develop sustained training plan for talent development

The panel has recommended that a sustained training plan be put in place to nurture creative talent, particularly for story-planning and scriptwriting.

This recommendation will be supported via the MDA’s Talent Assistance scheme , which provides holistic support for talent development and training plans for our local creative talents in the media industry.  The production talents involved in PSB production will be able to tap on this scheme[1].  MDA will also support overseas training for relevant programmes that are not available locally.

Principles guiding PSB delivery

In implementing the panel’s recommendations, MDA will continue to be guided by the following principles on the management and delivery of PSB:  
 
Range of PSB content

PSB focuses on providing a range of content which is not catered for in commercial programme offerings, as they are usually not commercially viable.  These include local current affairs programmes, info-education documentaries, programmes for the elderly and children, and sports programmes featuring local athletes.

Content in official languages

Adequate PSB funding support should be provided for content in Singapore’s four official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil).

Emphasis on local productions

Resources should be prioritised for the production of local PSB content, especially content that can communicate or promote core values of importance to Singapore, such as social cohesion and rootedness.  Concurrently, adequate funds should be set aside to acquire content with PSB value (e.g. arts and educational programmes).

Ensure a large pool of creative ideas for quality PSB programmes

To develop variety in quality and creative concepts for PSB programming, MDA will continue to maintain the current 40 per cent quota for local PSB production hours that must be outsourced to independent production companies. This will help develop our production houses and build up the capabilities of the industry’s talent pool. 

Conclusion

The majority of the recommendations, such as the introduction of audience-tested pilots and the contestable funds scheme, will be implemented within this year by MDA.

MICA would like to express its deepest appreciation to the panel members for their invaluable contributions to the review.  The panel’s recommendations are timely, given the fast-evolving and highly competitive media landscape where people have easy access to many sources of information and entertainment. The recommendations will help to enhance the quality and reach of PSB programmes so that they remain appealing and relevant to our local audience.

The Government will continue to place a high premium on PSB programmes, as they play an important role in fostering core values such as social cohesion, racial harmony and rootedness among Singaporeans.

[1] Please refer to MDA’s press release for more information on MDA’s Talent Assistance grant scheme (“$20 million to boost media sector productivity growth”, 26 Jun 2012).

Annex A

SUMMARY OF PSB REVIEW PANEL’S RECOMMENDATIONS AND GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE 

Panel’s recommendations

Government’s response

Revision to PSB funding rates to improve quality of PSB content on FTA TV

1.

Sufficient investments must be channelled to raise production quality of PSB content, which has been affected by stagnant hourly funding rates while production costs have risen. The panel proposes an increase in the funding allocation for locally produced PSB content.

 

Accepted. MDA will increase allocation of funds to areas of production that will boost PSB content quality, such as research, script writing, and story planning.

 

2.

It is important to sustain the current level of PSB output, given that the current quantity is not high and there is a need to serve the public’s diverse PSB needs. However if there are resource constraints, the focus of resources should be on raising quality.

 

Accepted. As quality has been identified as a key issue to be addressed, funding resources should be focused on raising production quality of PSB programmes, rather than on increasing quantity. MICA and MDA are prepared to consider reducing the current PSB output to a reasonable level if necessary.

 

3.

PSB funding rates to be reviewed periodically.

 

Accepted. MDA will undertake periodic reviews of PSB, including funding rates, in consultation with industry and government stakeholders.

4.

There is a need for concept development with the objective of raising quality, such as funding for pilot development.

 

Accepted. For FY12, MDA will allocate funds under the “Additional PSB” (APSB) framework for the development of pilots. MDA will work with MediaCorp on the genres and channels to be included.

 

Expanding the reach of PSB content 

5.

To extend the broadcast of dedicated PSB content to non-FTA local platforms, particularly selected local online multimedia platforms and pay TV platforms.

Accepted. MDA will revamp the existing Public Service Content (PSC) scheme, which was limited to the FTA TV broadcaster, to allow participation by selected non-FTA TV players.

6.

MDA would need to ascertain that these non-FTA TV platforms would be able to ensure sizeable reach for PSB content from a value-for-money perspective. MDA should put in place the necessary criteria and assessment guidelines to ensure that the PSB content can ultimately be accessed free of charge and that existing principles of reach among target demographics are adhered to.

Accepted. The new contestable funds scheme will include criteria such as a minimum reach requirement for platforms, and will ensure that PSB content carried by non-FTA participating broadcasters is subsequently made available to the public.

7.

Once operational, the revamped PSC scheme should be reviewed for its effectiveness in meeting the original objectives and be fine-tuned if necessary.

Accepted. MDA will review the effectiveness of the new contestable funds scheme following one complete cycle of telecast programmes developed under the scheme.

 8.

Increase the current PSC funding amounts to enable a sizeable amount of PSB content to be carried on selected local platforms beyond FTA TV.

Accepted. MICA and MDA will review the funds allocated for the contestable funds scheme. The total funding amount will depend on the number of participating broadcasters and their respective performance and capacity to meet the scheme’s objectives.

Developing skills, talent and production

9.

To nurture creative talent, particularly story-planners and scriptwriters, MDA is to identify potential public- and private-sector partners to further this initiative through sustained training, attachments and talent matching plans, etc.

Accepted. MDA will continue to support the development of industry talents as part of its initiatives under the Talent Assistance Scheme launched in September 2011. These initiatives cover skills upgrade and training programmes that complement the Singapore Workplace Development Agency’s Creative Industries Workforce Skills Qualification (CI WSQ) Competency Framework, which includes a media roadmap that defines the competency requirements and progression of key media occupations for the media workforce.

For 2012, MDA will be placing emphasis on training programmes in story-planning and scriptwriting, which are in line with the PSB Review Panel’s recommendations. Training will cover genres like documentaries, dramas and children’s programmes. Industry practitioners have identified these as some of the current gaps in talent development. MDA will also support overseas training for relevant programmes that are not available locally.

Apart from attracting and nurturing a pipeline of media talents, MDA will continue to work closely with WDA to develop upgrading pathways under its WSQ framework to ensure that media talents constantly upgrade their skills and capabilities to remain relevant in the industry. 

10.

There should be more synergy between institutes of higher learning (IHLs), the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and MDA in projecting the manpower needs of the broadcast industry.

Accepted. To enable this, MDA will share with the IHLs and WDA information on the skill gaps and expected manpower needs at the start of each year, with additional updates on a regular basis.

11.

More links between MDA, IHLs and other public agencies so as to ensure that the curricula for media courses are relevant and that students entering the industry are equipped with the appropriate skills.

Accepted. To ensure that media graduates are industry-ready and have the right career expectations at the tertiary level before they join the industry, MDA will collaborate with the various IHLs to develop relevant media education programmes and a training system to meet industry needs for manpower.

12.

Gaps in capability development for production should also be identified and addressed.

Accepted. MDA has issued MediaCorp a Strategic Guidance Document (SGD), which articulates MDA’s views on areas of production that require improvements in the broadcaster’s delivery of PSB content. The SGD consolidates the Review Panel’s recommendations, relevant feedback from the public and industry, and MDA’s proposals in addressing them.

Funding for radio

13.

Increase funding for radio, in view of cost inflation adjustments and the need to continue to provide quality PSB radio content.

MICA agrees in principle that additional funding for radio would be beneficial. It will review the funding allocation to radio.

Maximising PSB reach through dubbing/subtitling and adequate publicity

14.

Local broadcasters should be encouraged to adapt or dub a programme in other languages for telecast on other language channels.

Accepted. MDA will look at implementation details in consultation with the broadcasters.

15.

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.

Accepted. MDA will work with MediaCorp in improving the publicity of PSB programmes, especially across channels.

Guiding programming strategies and outcomes through audience research and testing

16.

More can be done in guiding programming strategies and setting desired outcomes through audience-based research on preferences and audience-based testing of concepts.

Accepted. The introduction of pilots for selected genres/channels will allow MediaCorp to better determine audience preferences which will guide the development of the pilot-tested content.

In addition, MDA will continue to conduct surveys to assess the public’s overall satisfaction with PSB programmes and the effectiveness of the PSB messages being conveyed.