Dated: 7 July 2008
More Elderly and Children’s programmes, but less of commercialised variety shows and dramas that capitalise on inappropriate themes. These were the key recommendations made by the Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes (ACCESS), which today released its biennial report for the period July 2006 to June 2008.
The 21-member ACCESS, led by Associate Professor Lee Cheuk Yin from the National University of Singapore, advises the Media Development Authority (MDA) on public expectations and feedback concerning Chinese-language TV and Radio programmes. For its report, ACCESS held dialogues with independent production houses, newspapers editors, social workers and students to understand the industry and provide a broader cross-sampling of views from the public.
Said Chairman of ACCESS, Associate Professor Lee Cheuk Yin, “In fostering a more vibrant local Chinese broadcasting scene, the broadcasters could outsource more programmes to independent production houses, introducing more creative ideas and greater variety of programmes. To cater to the needs of viewers, especially children and senior citizens, for which there is a lack of programme choices, broadcasters should also take the initiative to find out more from the target audience about their interests.”
Added Associate Professor Lee, “Given the impact of mass media on the community, ACCESS urges all broadcasters to constantly review and raise the quality of their content to stay relevant to changing audience expectations. This is even more pertinent as viewers today are increasingly exposed to more foreign content that is widely available across new digital platforms.”
The key observations and recommendations of the ACCESS Report are summarised as follows:
Positive Moves by Broadcasters
The Committee appreciated the wide range of locally produced programmes offered by Channel 8 and Channel U. This includes quality info-educational programmes during primetime slots on Channel U such as the local programmes “稀游记” (Find Me A Singaporean), “心情工作室” (My Life, My Profession), and acquired documentary series such as “再说长江” (Rediscovering the Yangtze River) and “大国崛起” (Rise of the Great Nation). In addition, a range of Current Affairs programmes imparting advice on issues ranging from legal and entrepreneurial matters, to water conservation and financial investment guides were also shown on both channels.
Locally-produced dramas shown within the new timeslots on Channel 8 to supplement existing slots—Mondays, 8pm to 9pm and Wednesdays, 8.30pm to 9pm—such as “我们的饭店” (Our Rice House) and “飞越佛跳墙” (Folks Jump Over The Wall), were well-produced and of high quality. Travelogues such as “代你看世界” (Adventure Clicks) and “我的明星导游2” (My Star Guide 2) were engaging and entertaining, with useful nuggets of information for viewers. The introduction of real-time captioning of the News Bulletins was also commendable, enabling the deaf to follow daily happenings and be better integrated into society.
Programmes for the Elderly
With Singapore’s rapidly-aging population, the Committee recommended more content catering to the elderly beyond the programme “黄金年华” (Golden Age) and dialect operas currently shown on television. The broadcast timings of these programmes were also subject to frequent changes—the broadcast timing for “黄金年华” (Golden Age) was changed from Friday afternoon to Saturday mornings and then back again to Friday. This might have disrupted the viewing habits of the elderly viewers.
Children and Youth programmes
Likewise, although Children’s programmes on Channel 8’s weekend Children’s belt, such as “超级便当” (My Yummy Lunchbox) and “贝贝的零用钱” (Money Meg), contained good info-educational content for children, there was still a shortage of Chinese Children’s programmes compared to English Children’s programmes. The Committee also hoped that youth programme series such as “华文智多星” (Chinese Language Challenge), which promote Chinese culture, will continue to be a staple on the Chinese channels at prime time.
Variety and Entertainment programmes
The Committee suggested limiting sponsored and commercialised variety programmes, especially those by beauty salons and slimming centres so that viewers would not be inundated with excessive advertising and sales messages. Such sponsored programmes should be more objective in treatment if they are presented as factual programmes. Otherwise, they should be labeled as infomercials and be aired at appropriate timings.
The Committee was of the view that drama serials should not capitalise on inappropriate themes to gain more viewership. For example, much prominence was placed on undesirable values such as teenage delinquency and extra-marital affairs in the drama serial “手足” (Kinship) while the theme of violence was exploited and sensationalised in the Channel 8 drama, “破萤而出” (Metamorphosis). The Committee also urged the use of proper Mandarin in the dramas by minimising the use of Singlish, as well as colloquial and adulterated Mandarin.
On areas for improvement, ACCESS recommended that there should be adequate coverage of both local and international news in all News Bulletins. Mistakes made by newscasters should also be corrected immediately to ensure that the information imparted is accurate. To improve the standard of News delivery, ACCESS recommended that News editors responsible for scripting reports should improve on their language and writing skills. At the same time, TV and radio practitioners should attend professional vocal and language training classes to build their language expertise and professionalism. Such training classes would also help to build up a pool of local media talents proficient in the use of Mandarin. In addition, ACCESS is of the view that entertainment news and trailers for upcoming programmes need not be part of News bulletins as such information is more suitable for entertainment or lifestyle programmes.
Recommendations for Radio Programmes
For SAFRA Radio’s year-old bilingual radio station, 88.3JiaFM, ACCESS took the view that the standard of both Mandarin and English should be maintained, in particular, within the bilingual talk show. As 88.3JiaFM is predominantly a Chinese radio station, News Bulletins, weather reports and traffic updates should only be aired in Mandarin to ensure that such important messages are effectively conveyed to all listeners.
The ACCESS report 2006/2008 can be found on (www.mda.gov.sg/access).
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Advisory Committee on Chinese Programmes (ACCESS)
The Advisory Committee on Chinese Programmes (ACCESS) [华文节目咨询委员会] was set up in 1994 to advise and feedback on the range and quality of Chinese programmes that are provided on Free-to-air Chinese TV channels and radio stations so as to enhance the broadcasters’ role to entertain, inform and educate the viewers. The Committee also gives counsel on Subscription TV Chinese programmes.
Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA)
Formed in 2003, the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) plays a vital role in transforming Singapore into a Global Media City and positioning it at the forefront of the digital media age. MDA spearheads initiatives that promote developments in film, video, television, radio, publishing, music, games, animation, media services and Interactive Digital Media. At the same time, in ensuring clear and consistent regulatory policies and guidelines, MDA helps to foster a pro-business environment for industry players and increase media choices for consumers. For more information, visit www.mda.gov.sg and www.smf.sg