The 13th Conference of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information
STATEMENT BY H.E. YAACOB IBRAHIM, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, SINGAPORE, AND VICE-CHAIRMAN OF AMRI, AT THE 13TH CONFERENCE OF ASEAN MINISTERS RESPONSIBLE FOR INFORMATION (AMRI), CEBU, PHILIPPINES, 17 MARCH 2016
Theme “One ASEAN: Connectivity, Community and Opportunity”
His Excellency Herminio Coloma Junior, Chairman of AMRI
Honourable ASEAN Ministers
Ladies and gentlemen
2 I would like to congratulate Your Excellency Herminio Coloma Junior, on your appointment as Chairman of the 13th Conference of AMRI and for The Philippines’ Chairmanship of AMRI in 2016. This is an important role, and an especially significant one with the formation of the ASEAN Community last year, as we strive towards achieving the goals set out in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
3 It is an honour for Singapore to play the role of Vice-Chairman of AMRI this year. I am very pleased to be here, to see many familiar faces, and have the opportunity to meet new colleagues. Singapore will provide our strong support to The Philippines as AMRI continues to work on promoting cooperation in the information and media sectors, in order to help build an ASEAN identity.
Digital Broadcasting for all
4 As the media and infocomm landscape evolves, we have to stay ahead of the game and prepare our people to grasp the opportunities offered by advances in technology. We need to ensure that our people stay connected to the rich content available on digital platforms and, at the same time, ensure that no one is left behind in this digital revolution.
5 In this regard, I would like to commend ASEAN Member States on the progress made in the transition to digital broadcasting, and in working towards realising the Analogue Switch-off timeframe target of 2015-2020. I am pleased to report that Singapore is on track to complete our analogue switch-off by end 2017.
6 However, with analogue switch-off, it is important to ensure that no one is left behind and will get to enjoy the benefits of Digital TV transmission. To encourage digital take-up rates, we need to first address consumers’ concerns for acquiring the digital receiver or Set Top-Box at affordable prices.
7 In Singapore, we launched the Digital TV Assistance Scheme in 2014 to help low income households with the transition from analogue to digital TV. So far, 46 per cent of the eligible households have benefitted from the Scheme: these households receive a digital set top box, an indoor antenna and installation of the equipment. We have also been working with voluntary organisations to reach out to the disabled and the elderly in our community to prepare them for the digital switchover.
8 I urge member states to share your experiences and challenges in the move from analogue to digital, so that we can continue to learn from each other on what worked well and what does not, so that all our peoples will soon reap the benefits of digital broadcasting.
Creation of quality ASEAN content
9 To preserve our unique ASEAN identity, values, heritage and culture, we should strive to create quality content that is uniquely ASEAN. Quality content is key to attracting eyeballs, especially when audiences are spoilt by the large amount and variety of content available online.
10 There is a demand for ASEAN content, and for ASEAN producers to create unique content that is of interest to audiences around the world. One example from Singapore is ‘Ilo Ilo’, which bagged numerous international awards, including the Camera d'Or award for best first feature film at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2013.
11 Programmes such as ‘Sharing ASEAN’, which aims to capture the beauty and diversity of the different communities and cultures in ASEAN; and the documentary on ‘Disaster Management’, which aims to showcase the ASEAN solidarity in our humanitarian efforts towards the international community, are also examples of programmes that resonate with our own people and also help to raise awareness of ASEAN amongst the international community.
12 As One ASEAN community, we need to continue to support our young talents and companies, encourage them to work together, so that they can continue to produce more ASEAN-centric programmes that are relevant and attractive to both the ASEAN and international audience.
13 Every year in the months of November to December, Singapore organises the annual Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), an event aimed at promoting budding Asian film talents and Southeast Asian films, and attended by international film critics. I would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to all aspiring filmmakers to attend the Singapore Media Festival this year.
Spreading the ASEAN story to a wider audience
14 With digital broadcasting, we can easily leverage online platforms to make ASEAN digital content accessible to both our local as well as global audiences. People will be able to view ASEAN programmes wherever they are, in whatever format or platforms available, and at any time of the day.
15 I would like to take this opportunity to encourage ASEAN member states to work together and leverage online platforms to make ASEAN content available to the wider audience. I am pleased to note that a Singapore start-up company, Viddsee, provides an online platform for free streaming of short, made-in-Asia films. ASEAN member states should leverage on the capabilities of such private sector companies in order to reach out to audiences across the globe. This provides an excellent opportunity to spread the ASEAN story and promote the One ASEAN message to a wider audience.
16 Digital broadcasting also brings about a whole slew of benefits. Besides freeing up spectrum and allowing broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, it also enables viewers to receive higher quality images and sound.
17 Digital broadcasting also means that we can incorporate multiple language options in the programmes, as well as enable viewers to toggle the display of subtitles. In fact, the SOMRI Working Group on Digital Broadcasting is exploring audio translation technology that would allow for multi-language subtitling in the future. This would allow ASEAN programmes to transcend language and cultural boundaries to reach a wider audience, not just within the ASEAN community but beyond. Digital broadcasting also allows us to better track and gather audience preferences, so that we can continue to produce quality content that tells the ASEAN story.
Celebrating ASEAN 50th Anniversary
18 There is much that the information and media sector can contribute as we embark on the next 10-year journey towards realising the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. We have come a long way. In fact, next year, ASEAN will be celebrating our Golden 50th Anniversary. This is an important milestone, and we should take the opportunity to celebrate and also raise the awareness of ASEAN especially among the young.
19 Last year, Singapore celebrated our Golden Jubilee. Seven Singapore directors came together to produce a movie titled “7-Letters”, which comprises seven short films reflecting on different facets of Singapore through personal and poignant stories. The movie was very well received and resonated with people of different ages and races.
20 Short films are a great way to connect a community. As a way to celebrate ASEAN’s 50th anniversary, perhaps we can also consider inviting our film-makers and youth to produce short films that showcase our shared experiences, identity, culture and values in ASEAN. These “snippets” can be shared online, where they will be easily accessed via social and digital media. Leveraging on online platforms will allow us to bring the story of ASEAN more quickly and intimately to our audiences, especially our youth who consume content primarily through these platforms.
21 To end, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of the Philippines for the excellent arrangements that have been made for this meeting and the warm hospitality that has been accorded to the Singapore delegation. I would personally like to invite all AMRI leaders and their respective delegations to Singapore for the 14th AMRI Conference in 2018. Thank you.