Stepping up media support during COVID-19

Last updated: 23 April 2020

Published on: 24 April 2020

By Kami Navarro

It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has brought much of the world to a standstill. From transport and tourism to retail and F&B, many industries are struggling to cope with the pandemic’s fallout. The media sector has also been affected - although heightened safe distancing measures have led to an increase in the consumption of media at home, it has also made content production a significant challenge.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority has introduced various measures to support the media through these tough times. Many of these initiatives were borne out of virtual engagement sessions between the IMDA, Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and key representatives from Singapore’s media sector. These sessions enabled the government to better understand the media industry’s needs, as well as serving as a springboard for ideas on how these needs could be best addressed.

Embodying the spirit of SG United, some of these ideas have now come to fruition, thanks to the shared efforts of both government and industry. Here’s a look at IMDA’s recent supportive measures for the media professionals and companies.

Stimulating Singapore’s media ecosystem

A recent survey by the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals (SAMPP) revealed that 53.2% of the country’s media practitioners described themselves as heavily impacted by COVID-19. According to three quarters of the respondents, many of their existing assignments have been cancelled or postponed and affecting their income.

To create a steady pipeline of content and protect industry jobs during this period, IMDA has introduced a new S$8 million Public Service Content (PSC) Fund in collaboration with commissioning partners like Mediacorp, Singapore Press Holdings and Viddsee. Starting 23 April 2020, the first call-for-proposals (CFP) will be launched by Mediacorp, with subsequent CFPs set to be unveiled on 11 and 15 May. These proposals should fulfill several criteria, including be no less than 10 minutes in length, meet any of the six Public Service broadcast objectives, be in any of the four official languages, and not exceed a PG13 classification.

With this in mind, eligible companies are advised to use the remaining circuit breaker period to put together their proposals, after which production work can start once restrictions have been lifted. Further details on eligibility and proposal content can be found in this press release.

Maintaining skills relevance during COVID-19

Media practitioners experiencing some downtime can take up additional training or reskilling courses. To help self-employed persons (SEPs) in the media sharpen their craft and boost Singapore’s overall media capabilities, IMDA will be providing SEPs with a training grant of up to 90% of course fees, capped at S$3,000 per course under the Talent Assistance (T-Assist) Programme. The list of pre-approved media courses can be found here.

Starting 1 May 2020, SEPs can also receive an enhanced training allowance—up to S$10 per hour from S$7.50—for SkillsFuture courses and selected sector-specific training programmes. Combined, these two initiatives will ensure that Singapore’s talented roster of media practitioners retain relevant skills and emerge from the COVID-19 situation stronger than before.

“The work ahead for us is to cast as wide a net as possible to support our freelancers,” shared Minister of Communications and Information Mr S. Iswaran through Facebook. “In the longer term, it is critical that we continually improve our capabilities and skills so that we can be ready to seize opportunities with the eventual recovery from COVID-19.”

Accelerating content creation and collaboration

To further enhance the capabilities of Singapore’s local talents, IMDA will be tapping upon the expertise of its partners—including WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks APAC and ViacomCBS Networks Asia—to implement the Capabilities Partnership Programme (CPP). In this initiative, leading media companies will be paired with local counterparts to develop “Made in Singapore” content.

Both WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, for instance, are set to develop up to three regional content intellectual properties in May-June 2020. Over 80 to 100 local media companies are expected to benefit from the CPP programme in the next 12 months. By driving active collaboration, the programme will generate meaningful content for new markets, make local companies more competitive and stimulate long-term business growth.

“We are looking at how we can quickly bring forward our programmes and keep content development and production work flowing,” said Mr Tan Kiat How, IMDA’s Chief Executive, on his LinkedIn account. Through initiatives like the CPP and PSC Fund, IMDA hopes to continue creating local opportunities and build a resilient media ecosystem.

Reducing business costs: waiving licensing fees

With the onset of the circuit breaker measures, a majority of production work has been put on hold or postponed. As a means to help media companies reduce operating costs during this period, certain fees have been waived since 17 April 2020 until further notice. These fees include the Film Exhibition and Distribution Licence Fees, which has been waived for new licence applications and the renewal of existing licences.

Furthermore, classification fees for the public exhibition and distribution of films, as well as video games and label fees will also be waived. A comprehensive guide to the fees and corresponding waivers can be found here.

Together, we can overcome

MCI_Photo Release 1_14 Apr
Attendees of the online media engagement session spearheaded by the IMDA and MCI on 2 April, 2020.
Photo from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)

While these initiatives make for a promising start, there is still much to be done. However, by working together, Minister Iswaran is optimistic that Singapore’s media ecosystem will readily overcome this period of uncertainty. “The Government will continue to support our media companies and professionals as they weather this trying period, so that they can continue to create content that inspires, uplifts and binds us as one united people,” he said. “These initiatives form part of our larger national effort to protect jobs and livelihoods.”

Echoing Minister Iswaran’s sentiments, Ms Jayce Tham, Chief Businesswoman at CreativesAtWork, shared, “I believe [that] if we come together and stay united, we will be able to pull it through.” With all these initiatives in place, there’s no reason to think that this cannot be achieved.

To stay informed of IMDA’s supportive measures amid COVID-19, regularly check out the Efforts to Support Singapore’s Media Sector page for the latest updates.

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