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Innovation in media and communications

Introduction

Madam Chair, MCI will develop the Infocomm and Media sectors to be key enablers and engines of growth, to nurture competitive companies and create good jobs for Singaporeans. 


Building a vibrant media ecosystem

2 I agree with Mr Ganesh Rajaram on the importance of partnerships in industry development. 


3 Our strategy to attract global media companies has provided opportunities for local media companies and Singaporeans to participate in flagship projects and international co-productions, which can then be enjoyed by consumers in Singapore and around the world.


4 For example, a team of Singaporeans from Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects studio arm of Lucasfilm, created ground-breaking animation and visual effects for blockbuster film ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’.


5 Our local production houses have also been working with international broadcasters such as Discovery, National Geographic and HBO Asia, to produce original content for broadcast across Asia.


6 HBO Asia’s latest original comedy series ‘Sent’ is the first series where a local media company, Very Tay, has worked hand in hand with HBO Asia through the entire process of development, writing and production. They told me about this collaboration when I visited HBO Asia. I was very encouraged by it, as this has provided opportunities for our companies to work with an international company and produce a series that can be enjoyed in Singapore and supported by Singaporeans.


7 MCI will continue to develop a business-friendly and pro-growth environment for Singapore media companies to innovate and experiment with new ideas. 


8 One useful initiative is Mediapreneur, an incubation programme by Mediacorp that supports media startups through seed funding, mentoring, networking and marketing opportunities through Mediacorp’s platforms. Several of these startups are already partnering business units in Mediacorp to develop interesting concepts. IMDA supports this initiative and the Accreditation@IMDA to complement Mediapreneur’s efforts, by providing tailored assistance to these startups in areas such as product testing and financial modelling.


9 I met some of the start-ups and their founders. These are passionate individuals, who feel strongly about their ideas, and they appreciate the support from IMDA and Mediacorp. I look forward to seeing some of their ideas being adopted by media companies to produce entertaining content and to raise the level of enjoyment for our viewers.


10 Mr Leon Perera asked if IMDA is exploring ways to promote private sector funding of local films. IMDA has been studying different ideas, including the ones mentioned by Mr Perera, and discussing with the industry players to see which ones are more feasible and more impactful to help them grow their business and produce quality content.


11 IMDA’s Production Assistance Grant is a co-funding scheme which supports up to 40% of a project’s qualifying expenses. This supports our media companies and also encourages private sector funding. And because 100% of the equity goes to the media company, it is fully incentivised to commercialise the film. We will continue to study ways to boost the market for film investment, including tapping on new funding models, and growing the demand for local content.


12 IMDA’s support for the local film community, through grants and scholarships, has produced some encouraging results. For example, IMDA has embarked on a partnership with a local online film platform, Vidsee, to create a Singapore film channel. Today, the channel showcases a collection of short films produced by promising local filmmakers like Kirsten Tan and K. Rajagopal.


13 These are some examples of the many industry development initiatives by IMDA to help our local filmmakers create compelling stories, and bring their films overseas to an even wider audience.


Developing a capable, future-ready media workforce 

14 Talent attraction and development are key success factors for creative and knowledge-based sectors like InfoComm and Media. IMDA’s Talent Assistance scheme has groomed media professionals and helped deepen their capabilities.


15 One example is Billy Yong, a freelance animator who attended two overseas training courses with funding support from IMDA. The training has enhanced his proficiency in storytelling and animation, and helped him to secure more projects.


16 Our growing media industry will create many jobs that require a diverse range of skills, including the use of media tools to achieve business outcomes. Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked how we plan to develop a future-ready media workforce. Minister Yaacob had earlier announced a Media Manpower Plan with four key thrusts. Let me elaborate. 


17 First, our media workforce must deepen core skills to remain competitive. We need to strengthen content creation and the ability to tell original, compelling stories. One initiative is IMDA’s Story Lab, which brings people together to incubate ideas and explore innovative ways to tell interesting stories. We also want to equip media professionals with skills to benefit from the latest technologies and platforms, including the facilities at Pixel Studios, which has been purpose-built for online content creators.


18 Second, we will enhance the media industry’s attractiveness by developing a skills framework for media professionals. IMDA and SkillsFuture Singapore will jointly develop this framework as a common reference for job-seekers, media professionals and employers. It will contain information on current and emerging skills for different occupational levels, as well as career progression pathways for different media-related jobs. Employers can use this framework to design talent development plans, to attract and retain talent for their companies. 


19 There are many freelancers in the media sector. Hence, our third focus is to provide better support for media freelancers, in line with the Ministry of Manpower’s broader efforts to encourage fair and progressive workplaces. Let me briefly mention some of the on-going initiatives.


20 First, IMDA and NTUC are developing a tripartite standard by this year for the procurement of services from media freelancers. This is done in consultation with media companies and freelancers. It will provide a list of good employment practices, such as having written contracts that clearly spell out payment terms, intellectual property rights, and how to handle disputes.


21 In partnership with the Singapore Mediation Centre, IMDA will also provide subsidised mediation services to resolve disputes between media companies and freelancers on contractual matters including late payment and, sometimes, non-payment.


22 These moves aim to encourage a better work relationship between media companies and freelancers, and I share Mr Ganesh Rajaram’s hope that freelancers will proactively leverage on the available initiatives for them. I also urge freelancers to focus on their career development and prepare for retirement adequacy, including contributing regularly to their CPF and Medisave accounts. These are important for their long-term retirement plans.


23 The fourth thrust is to partner with key industry players and industry associations to develop our media professionals and propagate good practices. This includes media companies which receive government funding, as well as production houses who work with Mediacorp on Public Service Broadcasting or PSB programmes.


24 We will start by requiring media companies to adopt the abovementioned good industry practices if they want to qualify for government grants and PSB funding. IMDA will take action against companies that wrongfully delay or withhold payment to their staff and freelancers. We will monitor the effectiveness of these measures, and will consider introducing new measures if necessary, to ensure that media sector employees and freelancers are fairly treated.


Public service broadcasting in a digital age

25 Madam, I will next touch on how we are producing quality local content for Singaporeans through PSB programmes.


26 I agree with Mr Zaqy Mohamad and Mr Darryl David that PSB is important for our national development, and it needs to stay relevant in the digital age.


27 Through PSB, we have supported media companies to produce local programmes that entertain and engage Singaporeans.


28 Dramas such as ‘Tanglin’, ‘118’, ‘Aduh… Bibikku!’ and ‘Vetri’ are popular programmes that continue to drive primetime viewership on Channel 5, Channel 8, Suria and Vasantham. 


29 Other genres, such as documentaries and current affairs programmes, have also been well-received. One example is the excellent documentary on nursing produced by Channel 8’s Tuesday Report. I attended the preview and met the nurses and their families. Viewers who watched the show found it meaningful and memorable.


PSB must be future-ready

30 As several members have highlighted, the media landscape is becoming increasingly challenging. Apart from Netflix, Amazon Prime and Viu, YouTube will be launching a new streaming television service, called YouTube TV. There is a lot of competition. The selection of Over-The-Top content is growing rapidly, but consumers’ time and attention are limited. Even premium content on Pay TV channels no longer hold the same draw. This has caused TV advertising revenues to decline, but at a time when more investments are actually needed to build capabilities in content production and online technology. 


31 Mr Vikram Nair and Mr Zaqy Mohamad asked about Mediacorp’s plans to better position itself for the future. At last year’s COS, I spoke about transforming PSB by focusing on 3 ‘C’s – Content, Channels and Capabilities. These remain our focus in bringing quality local programmes to Singaporeans.


32 First, on content. I recently read a Straits Times interview with Mediacorp’s award-winning scriptwriter, Mr Ang Eng Tee. He was the scriptwriter for many popular Channel 8 dramas like ‘Hero’, ‘118’, and previously ‘The Little Nonya’. He shared in The Straits Times interview that the challenge to get eyeballs for local TV will increase, but he said “if we continue to tell Singaporean stories, there will be something here for Singaporeans to watch”. I fully agree. Locally produced PSB programmes can best capture and convey our unique Singaporean flavour. 


33 We cannot match the budgets of Hollywood productions or Korean dramas, so we must compete differently by engaging our viewers through quality local content. To keep PSB content offerings relevant and fresh, IMDA and Mediacorp will establish a Content Development Fund to encourage more experimentation with new content formats, including the use of new technologies like augmented and virtual reality.


34 Next, on channels. Digital is the new frontier, especially for younger audiences. Mediacorp has been moving towards a stronger digital focus over the past few years. It will invest in further improving Toggle as its online platform, so we can watch our favourite local programmes anytime, anywhere, and on any device – from mobile phone to large-screen HDTV.


35 Toggle has seen a three-fold increase in unique viewers since its re-launch in April 2015 – an encouraging improvement considering the intense competition for eyeballs. The first slate of Toggle Original series was well-received, and has contributed to this growth. So this goes back to what I mentioned earlier, that content is ultimately the most important.


36 We will support Mediacorp to boost its Toggle offerings. This year, Mediacorp will roll out an even bigger slate of Toggle Originals. These will involve collaboration with independent producers and tertiary institutions, and cover a diverse spectrum of genres to offer more content choices. 


37 For better user experience, Toggle will also enhance its streaming reliability, navigation, content recommendation and personalisation features. I am glad to hear Mr Vikram Nair said earlier that he watched his favourite programmes using Toggle. We will certainly look into his suggestion for Mediacorp to add subtitles so that more people can enjoy the shows on Toggle.


38 Even as Mediacorp strengthens its digital channel, free-to-air (FTA) TV channels remain important for many viewers. These channels are collectively still the most popular destination for Singaporeans when it comes to media consumption. Good content developed for Toggle can be re-telecast on FTA TV, so that TV audiences can also enjoy them.


39 I am pleased to inform Mr Zaqy Mohamad that Mediacorp will reposition Okto as a Children and Sports channel. Last month, our first local bilingual TV series for pre-schoolers ‘Junction Tree’ was shown on Okto. This series is supported by IMDA and the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism. Mediacorp has also started featuring sports programmes, including programmes that encourage young Singaporeans to take an interest in sports and lead active lifestyles. One example is Okto Cup, a futsal tournament for kids. I remember, during last year’s COS debates, that Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin also raised this point about children’s programmes. I want to thank her and acknowledge her suggestion. We have discussed with Mediacorp how best to focus on this area. I agree with her that it is very important to provide good quality programmes for our children.


40 Third, we will continue to support Mediacorp’s efforts to build its capabilities in producing good quality programmes, for both TV and digital channels. This includes enhancing training in core skills such as commissioning, directing, storytelling and content production.


41 To invest for the future, IMDA will also partner Mediacorp to build a pipeline of young creative talent for the media industry. Through new scholarship and apprenticeship programmes, as well as collaborations with schools, we want to discover young talent and groom them early in media and content production. This includes a programme to develop young producers to create content targeted at youths.

More quality PSB content through greater industry collaboration

42 Mr Darryl David asked how the local media industry has benefitted from increased government support for PSB.


43 Through PSB, Mediacorp outsources a portion of its programmes to independent production houses.


44 Starting from this year, Mediacorp will enhance its collaboration with industry players by increasing the amount of outsourcing. It will also explore more co-production opportunities – a point mentioned by Mr Ganesh Rajaram. This is a win-win arrangement to bring quality local content to our viewers. It also benefits Mediacorp as well as our media industry.


45 I also encourage all industry players to tap on the PSB Contestable Funds Scheme to create quality PSB content. The scheme is in its fifth year, and our partnership with platforms like Starhub has produced good programmes such as ‘Echoes of Time’, a historical drama series by Ochre Pictures. It received a nomination for Best Production Design and Art Direction at the 2016 New York Festivals.


46 Another initiative is SPH's partnership with IMDA to produce and distribute short-form digital video content. The aim is to connect younger Singaporeans with digital PSB content, and encourage a greater appreciation for our local productions. I viewed the video produced by Zaobao on the world’s languages – they did a good job. 继续加油!


47 I agree with Mr Zaqy Mohamad that high quality journalism is an important public good which we must continue to support and preserve in Singapore. Like Mediacorp, SPH is keenly aware of the need to engage the digital generation, and are actively reinventing themselves to better serve their readers.


48 I met the online teams from the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao. They are doing good work in producing interesting digital content, trying out new ideas and fresh approaches. 


49 Based on then MDA’s 2015 Media Consumer Experience Study, the newspapers ranking has improved from sixth place in 2014 to first place in 2015[1]. About 78.9% of respondents in 2015 were satisfied with the newspapers’ content quality – up from 74.8% in 2014. This is an encouraging sign that people find newspaper content in Singapore satisfactory, and the rankings have improved. From 2015 to 2016, SPH achieved a 2.8% increase in its average daily circulation for both print and digital editions combined. This result is commendable, especially in a challenging period when many overseas newspapers are seeing declining readership.


Enhancing government communications

50 Mr Vikram Nair asked about how MCI is leading government communications efforts to reach out to all Singaporeans.


51 Measuring and analysing data gives a better feel of the concerns and sentiments of Singaporeans. This helps us to address information gaps, respond more quickly, and customise more impactful messages.


52 MCI will enhance our data analytics and research capabilities, which will help to support Whole-of-Government communications efforts. 


53 I agree with Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin that the government must engage widely and meaningfully. We have been making progress in this area over the years, including the use of face-to-face sessions to engage in deep conversations and candid discussions with different groups of Singaporeans.


54 MCI is a strong supporter of public engagement – an important area driven by MCCY. For example, REACH has worked with other government agencies and partners to increase its number of outreach sessions, which includes dialogues, focus group discussions, and Listening Points.


55 We will continue to use a range of approaches and platforms, to ensure there is a good balance of different stakeholders in our consultations so that different views are sufficiently considered.


56 We welcome suggestions on how we can further improve. Effective listening and engagement is an important part of effective communications.


57 We are also collaborating with partners to produce innovative content that can connect with Singaporeans, both intellectually and emotionally.


58 For example, MCI has started a crowdsourcing initiative called Project Lapis Sagu, a film contest that invited the public to submit story ideas on fostering awareness and understanding on social integration.


59 With support from four well-known local film directors – Eric Khoo, Kelvin Tong, K Rajagopal and Sanif Olek, we received more than 1,200 entries. The winners come from different backgrounds but they share a common passion for filmmaking.


60 Through this co-creation initiative, we hope to encourage greater involvement from the community and bring fresh perspectives on complex social issues. The four teams are currently developing their story ideas into short films, which will be ready next month. 


61 Mr Darryl David asked if we plan to continue with our public communications efforts in vernacular languages, including the use of dialect to communicate with seniors and help them understand government policies and programmes.


62 We will do so. MCI has produced dialect programmes together with Mediacorp and industry partners like Jack Neo and Royston Tan. These programmes communicate useful information to seniors through an entertaining format and by using a language that they are familiar with.


63 To reinforce the messages, we also engage seniors via roadshows in our HDB heartlands, and through key touch-points like the Pioneer Generation Ambassador network. Many seniors, including my residents, have told me that they enjoyed these shows and found them informative and entertaining. 


64 We will continue with these programmes, and are also developing similar content in Malay and Tamil.


65 Mr Pritam Singh asked about live streaming of Parliament proceedings.


66 Over the years, MCI has worked with Mediacorp to enhance the coverage of Parliamentary proceedings. Today, key Parliament sessions such as the Budget Statement and the opening of Parliament are broadcast live on both TV and online.


67 Footage of all Parliament speeches and Questions and Answer sessions are already available online, on ChannelNewsAsia’s Parliament microsite. 


68 Parliamentary highlights are loaded onto this microsite within three hours of broadcast. Videos of all speeches and footage from Question Time are uploaded by the following morning. 


69 If you go to the site, you will see that the videos are sorted by date and name of the MP. The video clips are easily accessible by the public, and are organised for convenient viewing. The online archival period for these videos has also been lengthened since 2013, from one month to six months.


70 In addition, the public has access to the full written record of Parliamentary proceedings via the online Hansard. Singaporeans who are interested in watching the proceedings can also attend any Parliamentary sitting in person, watch the news on TV that evening, or view the complete set of video clips from the CNA microsite using their computers and mobile devices the next morning.


71 Based on data collected, the viewership of live broadcasts remains low. Even for a major speech like the Budget, the number of people who watched it live is less than 10% of those who watched the parliamentary highlights on the news that evening. And less than 1% of all viewers watched the Budget live using web-streaming.


72 The experiences in other countries show that there are pros and cons to having live broadcasts of Parliament proceedings. Observers have noted that one downside is the risk of MPs playing to the gallery in the presence of live cameras, which would affect the work of Parliament.


73 Madam, we have many convenient channels by which the public can have access to Parliamentary proceedings. I believe these existing avenues have been useful in helping Singaporeans to understand what was discussed in this House and to inform their decisions on national policies and legislative changes. 


Promoting reading in Chinese

74 Several members have asked about our plans to promote a reading culture in Singapore.


75 Madam Chair, please allow me to end my speech in Mandarin to talk about our efforts to promote reading in Chinese.


76 政府去年展开了全国阅读运动,希望更多新加坡人会经常阅读、广泛阅读以及和家人朋友一起阅读。这项运动也鼓励人们以母语阅读,希望借此提升国人的双语水平。


77 教育起步公司斯雅 (Cialfo) 的创办人,谢顶立先生,就是其中一位掌握双语而获益的商人。他告诉我,以前他的华语说得不太流利,不过在多接触及使用华文华语之后,他的水平就提升了不少。这对他在中国经商特别有帮助。刚开始的时候,顶立的华语词汇量有限,但是经过一番努力和磨练,他现在已经可以用流畅的华语演讲和主持会议,和客户建立良好关系。


78 良好的阅读习惯应该从小培养,图管局推出了“小小书迷读书会”,通过各类有趣活动来鼓励孩童多阅读华文书。目前,全岛有五个这样的华文读书会,图管局会把这个计划扩大到更多图书馆。之前,我到图书馆出席活动时,看到了不少父母鼓励孩子阅读华文书,包括本地作家的作品,这让我感到非常鼓舞。


79 今年,图管局将再接再厉,推出“亲子阅读工作坊”,向父母介绍图书馆里的各种资源,并教导他们如何为孩子挑选适合的书籍。


80 除了孩童,图管局也要鼓励更多成年人以华文阅读,所以我们会扩大和媒体伙伴的合作。去年3月推出的“陪你看报纸”活动广受国人的欢迎,今年图管局和联合早报乘胜追击,携手推出一系列的讲座。主题包括财经、健康、本地华语文学等,包罗万象。在这里,由衷感谢各媒体伙伴对这些活动的支持,帮助我们引导国人广泛阅读。


81 在社区里,和家人朋友一起阅读可以开启文化之窗,这需要社区伙伴和公众的支持。由义工管理的牛车水图书馆就是一个很好的例子。牛车水图书馆是第一间以中华艺术和文化为主题的图书馆,经常在社区主办书法、唱大戏等的文艺活动,增强社区的凝聚力。


82 另外,重建后的淡滨尼图书馆将在今年8月开放,到时大部分的华文儿童藏书都将由周星衢 基金会捐赠。周星衢先生是大众集团的创始人,他生前热爱华族文化,多年来在这个方面给予大力的支持。我在此代表图管局向已故的 周老先生和他的家人表示衷心的感谢。


83 所谓“开卷有益”,政府将不断鼓励国人以母语阅读。我深信这有助于提升国人的双语水平并加强我国的竞争优势。谢谢。



[1] More information about the 2015 study can be found on IMDA’s website at https://www.imda.gov.sg/industry-development/facts-and-figures/media-consumer-experience-study.