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Mediacorp to review ops to gear up for future opportunities

SINGAPORE — Mediacorp and its shareholder Temasek Holdings will be reviewing the national broadcaster’s operations to “better position the company for the future”, announced Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat on Monday (April 11).

Mediacorp's new campus.

Mediacorp's new campus.

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SINGAPORE — Mediacorp and its shareholder Temasek Holdings will be reviewing the national broadcaster’s operations to “better position the company for the future”, announced Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat on Monday (April 11).

Public service broadcasting remains important for keeping Singaporeans well-informed while uniting people with shared experiences, but it is competing with content sources such as Netflix, iTunes and Spotify for viewers’ attention, noted Mr Chee. Given these realities, he said transformations will be needed to improve the quality of content, build up talent and extend reach through new channels.

“The successful transformation of public service broadcasting will require persistence and hard work. Our industry players like Mediacorp need to have a steadiness to ride through business cycles, and not allow short-term commercial ups and downs to affect their longer-term goals of producing good-quality content, building strong capabilities and developing effective channels,” he said.

“The Government ... (wants) to help Mediacorp to further strengthen ... (content, capabilities and channels) so that the company can continue to do well as Singapore’s national broadcaster and produce good quality local programmes for Singaporeans to enjoy for years to come.”

Public broadcasters in other countries, like the BBC in the UK, RTHK in Hong Kong and NOS in the Netherlands, also regularly review their structure, strategy and funding models, he noted.

Mediacorp chief executive officer Shaun Seow said: “We are pleased to have MCI’s full support for the review of our operations that we’ve initiated with our shareholder Temasek Holdings.

“Against an increasingly challenging environment for broadcasters around the world, we embarked on our transformation journey five years ago, engaging audiences across devices and innovating content. This business review is an important step in our continued transformation to ensure we are in the best position to serve our audiences for the long term.”

The Government provided S$250 million in public service broadcasting to Mediacorp and independent production companies in the last financial year, almost double the amount three years earlier.

While Singapore will not be able to match the budgets of blockbuster American productions like Game of Thrones, or Korean drama Descendants of the Sun, Mr Chee said a more “innovative approach” could be taken to attract viewers. Examples of these are producing quality local content that focus on cultural heritage or interesting aspects of Singapore society.

He hailed examples of well-received programmes such as
Mediacorp’s The Little Nyonya drama, and documentaries commissioned by Mediacorp such as All Access Changi and Wild City — Islands.

Beyond the focus on content, it is important to build strong capabilities as media is a talent-driven and knowledge-based industry, said Mr Chee. Besides funding to help attract, train and retain talent, the Government wants to create opportunities for learning and collaboration with overseas experts, such as Fox International and HBO Asia.

Mr Chee also urged the industry to “proactively embrace” new channels to extend its reach to audiences, such as the young, who consume entertainment through various online platforms.

Citing the example of Mediacorp’s Toggle platform, whose viewership has grown by eight times since its launch in 2013, Mr Chee lauded it as a “great platform to experiment with new concepts”.

Over the next two years, Toggle will be releasing a slate of 11 original programmes aimed at younger viewers.

To ensure existing channels remain relevant, Mediacorp is exploring the idea of positioning Okto as a channel focusing on children, young adults and sports.

It is also looking at ways to enhance content for Chinese programming through Channel 8 and Channel U, and ensuring Suria and Vasantham channels have adequate resources to provide quality programmes to serve the different ethnic communities.

During the debate, Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) also said that the Government needs to customise its approach in communicating policies and handling crises to its target segments, amid heightened public expectations of government communications and “increased scrutiny” on Government positions and policies.
He cited the Pioneer Generation Package campaign as a good example of how Government showed flexibility in its communication across channels - on TV, videos and publicity material, by customising its approach to engage different races and age groups, even selling its messages in Chinese dialects.
Adding that the Government could do more to simplify communications on complex policies such as Medishield Life, he said: “We must make simplifying our complex policies a habit in our communications, so that the ordinary citizen can easily 'get it’ and is clear on the benefits, rationales and trade-offs of each policy.” 

Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) also suggested using dialects more in promotional campaigns aimed at the elderly, while Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) added that with the situation of an ageing population, the need for quality translations “is more crucial than ever.”

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