Dated: 13 June 2006
The Advisory Committee on Chinese Programmes (ACCESS) released its biennial report for the period April 2004 to April 2006.
Following changes in the Free-to-Air (FTA) broadcasting landscape, ACCESS has observed the performance of the post-merger broadcaster, over two years, to see if the regaining of its monopolistic position would result in a decline in the range and quality of programming. With the exception of the first few months of adjusting period, the report concludes that the range and quality of Chinese programmes have by and large not suffered after the revamp of the two channels. Both Channel 8 and U have been retained, as both channels have their own merits.
The committee commends the broadcaster for putting out quality dramas, innovative variety shows, and programmes that engage young persons, as well as the effort made in scheduling quality info-educational programmes during prime time on Channel U.
The Committee’s key observations and recommendations are summarised below:
Observations and Recommendations
• News Bulletins, Current Affairs and Info-Educational Programmes
The strategy of having news bulletins at different times on both Chinese channels provides more opportunities for viewers to watch the news. To encourage viewers to have more exposure to news by watching news bulletins from both channels, members suggest that news bulletins on both channels be further differentiated by focusing on different story angles.
Channel U is commended for its efforts to push its current affairs and info-educational programmes into prime-time slots, enabling more viewers, especially the young, to benefit from these programmes. Channel 8 is also urged to keep up the good work done with quality info-educational programmes it produces.
• Local Dramas
On local dramas, the Committee reports that while the stories and acting have improved, language standards have dropped. Members are particularly concerned with the excessive use of foul language in some family dramas. While it is acceptable to use foul language occasionally as a means of characterising a ruffian as close to reality as possible, they should not be exploitative or used repeatedly, especially during family viewing hours and family dramas. The Committee has observed in recent local family dramas the presence of intimate and kissing scenes which are not suitable for children, as well as excessive quarrelling and even family and spousal violence. Members have commented that while there is a need for conflict in drama series, the treatment of conflict themes can be more skilful.
On the whole, ACCESS feels that scriptwriters and producers have generally improved the creativity of their work, and more positive dramas, which transmit a message of hope, are encouraged.
• Variety Programmes
After the merger, a revamp of the two Chinese channels resulted in a bumper crop of variety programmes, some innovative, and some still relying on low-brow slapstick antics to garner ratings. Variety shows that are both entertaining and educational are encouraged. Although there is a generous output of variety shows on beauty and grooming, lifestyle, and food programmes, a wider range of topics in lifestyle programmes, instead of continuously focusing on food and shopping, is preferred.
On comedy programmes which often resort to mindless and crass humor to titillate viewers, sometimes degenerating into bad taste, the Committee is concerned that if all the local comedy shows depend on slapstick humour to garner viewership, this would slant the interpretation of ratings, giving the impression that the public like such programmes when the fact is that they have little choice.
Similarly, variety shows that rely more on sexual innuendoes, hosts/characters cross-dressing, and those that are over-commercialised are discouraged.
• Cultural Programmes
Members support the broadcaster’s attempts to produce cultural programmes that provide insights and updates on the local arts scene, and appreciation of the Chinese cultural heritage. However, more resources should be spent on promoting these quality cultural programmes. Otherwise they would end up at the bottom of ratings charts due to insufficient awareness, and eventually drop out of the broadcaster’s priority, perpetuating a vicious cycle of quality programmes being accorded less priority over popular ones.
• Programmes for Youths and Children
The Committee has observed the lack of Chinese children’s programmes on FTA TV and that the quality of existing Chinese children’s programmes, whether local or imported, leaves much to be desired. In comparison, English children’s programmes are more accessible on both weekdays and weekends, and better in quality and content. Members feel that Chinese children’s programmes are important in promoting the Chinese language and imparting important Chinese cultural values and heritage.
The Committee is pleased that the new Channel U line-up has some new programmes that engage the youths as well as showcasing their unique talents. On the explosion of public-voting talent shows, although they are effective in reaching out to youths as well as garnering good ratings, the broadcaster should not be overly reliant on this successful formula, but continue to create more creative ideas for future programming.
• Programmes for the Educated Elderly
The Committee feels that there is a need to have more programmes targeted at the more educated elderly. These highly educated ""elderlies"" will appreciate content suited to their needs and intellectual level, for instance, like how to use their CPF money wisely, and health advice for the aged.
Conclusion : Other Observations
Although the Committee understands that the two Chinese channels are targeted at the Chinese population, members are still concerned that local (especially current affairs) programmes on Channels 8 and U are too focused on the Chinese community and culture. As such, there is a need to assimilate the lives and cultures of the other races in Singapore into Chinese programmes like dramas as well as info-educational programmes so as to help foster greater understanding of other racial groups.
ACCESS feels that there is still a lack of public awareness on good publicly funded programmes, and that the broadcaster does not seem to be giving these programmes as much publicity as their commercial programmes. To the Committee, the promotion of a programme (especially cross-channel marketing) plays a very important role on how it is received, and broadcasters should not spare any effort to promote high quality programmes even though they may not have mass appeal.
Hence, instead of just catering to the tastes of viewers, members feel that the broadcaster should be more pro-active in its efforts to raise the cultural intelligence of viewers in Singapore by ensuring good quality programmes get trailed as much as variety shows. Otherwise a negative cycle would be propagated where lowbrow slapstick programmes gain popularity and demand more trailing due to higher ratings.
Moving forward, ACCESS encourages MediaCorp to create compelling content for local productions in order to reach out to both local and international Chinese markets. The need for programmes to do well commercially should also be balanced with responsible programming. In addition, the Committee hopes to see the broadcaster help perpetuate a positive cycle of quality programmes consumption and appreciation by the Public.