Dated: 5 July 2011
Oli urged to revamp programmes;Vasantham encouraged to differentiate itself by developing a distinctive local flavour;Info-ed programmes on Vasantham get thumbs up;Children, youth and elderly shows to explore wider variety of topics
The eighth Indian Programmes Advisory Committee (IPAC) today released its biennial report on the state of the Indian broadcast programmes in Singapore for the period May 2009 to April 2011. In its report, IPAC called on Vasantham and Oli to be innovative and bold in the creation and marketing of media content, whilst commending both broadcasters for making strides in offering a wide variety of locally-produced programmes to the Indian community.
IPAC is heartened to note, too, that both Vasantham and Oli are conscious of their role as community broadcasters supported under the Media Development Authority’s Public Service Broadcast scheme. They have sought to produce vernacular programmes that entertain, educate and inform, whilst raising the standing of the Indian community.
However, to remain relevant to viewers in the face of changing media consumption habits and an evolving media landscape, broadcasters have to do more. They have to raise the bar in content creation, produce better quality productions by investing in research, and refresh outdated programmes by adopting new production formats.
Led by Ms Indranee Rajah –Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency and Director of Drew &Napier –the 17-member IPAC was appointed by the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts in 2009 to evaluate and make recommendations on local Indian broadcast content to ensure that they reflect community values and aspirations. It does so through regular dialogue sessions with industry players to understand their programming plans and challenges faced, on top of serving in an advisory capacity to the MDA in the formulation of regulatory guidelines on broadcast content.
Said Ms Rajah, “IPAC is pleased to note that to date, local broadcasters have done a commendable job in terms of providing programmes to meet the viewing and listening needs of their audiences. However, with the proliferation of other media options such as subscription TV services, they should strive to differentiate themselves from such competition in order to ensure audience retention. IPAC encourages Vasantham and Oli to wisely manage their roles as community broadcasters. They should always strive to produce quality programmes with distinctive local flavour that are faithful to the values and aspirations of the Indian community here. Bearing in mind the influence that programmes have on viewers, we also urge the broadcasters to produce programmes which not only garner strong ratings but also convey the correct messages to the audience.”
Below is a summary of the key highlights of IPAC’s recommendations, released today.
A) Good Standard of Current Affairs, Cultural, Info-educational and News Programmes
IPAC applauds Vasantham for continuing its legacy of producing quality current affairs, cultural and info-educational programmes. Regular info-educational shows such as “Ethiroli” and “Naam” were praised for being well-researched, insightful and relevant to the community. For instance, “Ethiroli” was commended for bringing awareness of higher education and skills upgrading to Indian youth through its coverage of the SINDA-ITE Roadshow.
Support was also expressed for programmes such as “Talam”, “Vasantham Sangeetha Vizha”, “Salangai Oli”, “Aaniver” and “Saalaram”, which sought to engage different community segments in myriad of themes running the gamut from architecture, travel, history to arts and culture. “Talam”, for instance, featured the various Indian ethnic groups, and helped to bring the Singapore Indian community together by promoting greater intra-community understanding of their different cultures and mores.
As programmes with refreshing genres such as “Aaniver” –which traces the history of Indian influence in different countries through a study of architectural styles –are currently not being aired on the Indian pay TV channels, IPAC suggests that Vasantham consider developing more of such shows. MediaCorp could perhaps even dub them into English for airing on Channel News Asia to engage the larger community in Singapore and beyond.
On news programmes, IPAC commends the segment “Thinam Oru Sol” in the nightly news bulletins, which provides the Tamil translation of a different English word / phrase each day, as it found the segment to be useful for viewers to improve their Tamil vocabulary. Taking the point further, IPAC suggests that Vasantham include Tamil language subtitles in its news programmes, akin to how same language subtitles are currently being provided in news bulletins on other MediaCorp channels. Such a provision would benefit the hearing impaired, the elderly and those who want to improve their Tamil linguistic skills.
B) More Diverse Programme Genres Needed for Children, Youth and Elderly
Although IPAC is generally pleased with Vasantham’s efforts to reach out to children, youth and the elderly, the Committee believes that more can be done to introduce a greater variety of topics to engage its viewers.
For children and youth, Vasantham could produce programmes that enrich them academically and artistically (for instance, on topics such as Tamil culture or literacy). IPAC also urges Vasantham to continue experimenting with exciting and creative programme formats to engage youth audiences. It cites “NC Pathinaaru” as a commendable docu-drama programme that uses interviews and dramatised sequences to explore adolescent issues and teenage angst, in a way that connected to young Indian viewers.
For the elderly, there should be more topics on healthy living, active aging as well as inspiring peer testimonials to engage senior viewers in a meaningful way.
C) Dramas to continue with emphasis on local stories
IPAC’s assessment is that locally-produced dramas have improved in technical quality and screenplay. Members urge broadcasters to continue to focus on locally-produced dramas as they strike a chord with the local Indian community, and provide a strong point of differentiation from foreign-produced, subscription TV programmes. A case in point is “Vyjayanthi”, a period drama about a Chinese woman adopted by an Indian family during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore –a storyline that is unique and reflective of Singapore’s history and culture.
D) Oli to Undergo a Structural and Content Revamp in Programming
IPAC urges Oli to consider revamping the content and structure of its radio programmes, and devote more attention to upgrading the professional skills of its young deejays.
The Committee found the younger deejays to be too verbose when on-air, often engaging in personal banter that listeners cannot understand and fail to add value to topics discussed. Hence, IPAC urges Oli to balance the mix of young deejays with more experienced deejays who could coach the former on radio presentation skills. Members also opined that Oli should not assign deejays to read the news unless they have undergone the necessary training, as news programmes are regarded as the benchmark for proper language use. To enhance the station’s programming line-up, Oli could also produce more pre-recorded radio shows as such programmes allow adjustments to be made before they go on air.
IPAC also urges Oli to revamp its radio programming, citing shows such as “PSLE Workshop”, “Top 10 Countdown” and “Campus” broadcast as examples of programmes that have become too predictable in both concept and execution.
Nonetheless, Oli was singled out for praise for its excellent coverage of the Tamil Language Month 2010. Appreciating the important role that the Tamil language plays in nurturing strong, culturally-rooted Indians, Oli went beyond the typical coverage of events and advertisements to create quizzes, debates and Tamil music programmes that added buzz and generated interest in the event. Oli’s news bulletins were also commended for consistently good quality reporting, where the station was able to swiftly feature Tamil-speaking interviewees on newsworthy happenings in countries that were essentially non-Tamil speaking.
E) More Needed for Entertainment Programmes
Whilst IPAC notes Vasantham’s initiative to introduce new programming formats, they found variety programmes such as “Vasanthan Café”, “Enna Nadakuthu” and “Jaamai”, similar as they all contained the same song, dance and comedic skits. On talk show programmes such as “Endrendrum Punnagai”, IPAC commented that the viewers tend to compare such locally produced shows to their foreign counterparts available on the Indian pay TV channels, which appear to be better researched.
IPAC also notes that variety programmes which featured singing competitions such as “Yaar Antha Star” paled in comparison with programmes such as “Super Singer” and “Junior Super Singer” on pay TV, which were more interactive and featured voice-trainers who trained the contestants. IPAC urges Vasantham to raise the bar by creating a more diverse array of entertainment programmes, investing in more research and directing more resources into the production of such shows, particularly in the face of stiff competition from competing providers.
Nonetheless, IPAC praised “Pradhana Vizha”, an award for Vasantham artistes, which promoted Indian culture to viewers by introducing classical music and bhangra performances into the show.
IPAC’s Views on Revision of Content Codes
During its term, the IPAC was consulted on and provided feedback on various content codes which MDA reviews on a regular basis.
On the advertising codes for radio and television, IPAC cautioned that infomercial programmes on Oli, though identified as sponsored programmes, did not contain adequate disclaimers to protect listeners. A case in point was a segment advertising a forex trading workshop, which gave the impression that trading was an easy way to make money without warning listeners of the potential pitfalls. IPAC was concerned that listeners could be misled, particularly if the deejays have strong persuasive powers. MDA subsequently included a new clause in the Code to ensure that sponsored segments and advertisements, which involve the employment of money in products and services where the returns are not guaranteed, include disclaimers and / or warnings on the risks involved.
The full details of the IPAC report 2009/2011 can be found on (www.mda.gov.sg/RegulationsAndLicenses/Consultation/Pages/CommitteeReports.aspx).
About Indian Programmes Advisory Committee (IPAC)
The Indian Programme Advisory Committee (IPAC) was set up in November 1994 to evaluate the quality, content and range of Indian Television and Radio programmes and their impact on the Indian community in Singapore. The Committee also makes recommendations to enhance the broadcasters’ role to entertain, inform and educate the public.
About Media Development Authority (MDA)
The Media Development Authority of Singapore (www.mda.gov.sg) promotes the development of vibrant and competitive film, television, radio, publishing, music, games, animation and interactive digital media industries in Singapore. It has developed an industry masterplan, Singapore Media Fusion 2015 (www.smf.sg), to advance this goal. MDA also promotes a connected society, consumer choice and a pro-business environment.