Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for taking the time to be here today, at MDA’s Media Industry Briefing. I would also like to welcome friends attending this event for the first time. In particular, friends from the NTUC, led by Deputy Secretary-General Ong Ye Kung, and also Mr Gene Tan, our colleague from our sister agency, the National Library Board.
Their presence today, together with that of Ms Lim Suat Jien, Mediacorp’s Managing Director of Television, Mr Tan Tong Hai, Chief Operating Officer, Starhub and Mr Tan Chih Chong, President of AIPRO, reflects the reality that MDA’s work is best carried out in partnership with industry, with our sister agencies, as well as with stakeholders in the community.
Let me start first with the elephant in the room. Many of you will have been keeping track of the recommendations of the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Review Panel, and awaiting the Government’s response to them. The main question on everyone’s mind, I believe, is whether and how much the PSB funding will increase, and what this will mean for production budgets.
For now all I can say is, I believe you will not need to wait much longer, as an announcement from the Ministry is likely any time now, and that it is likely to be a positive one.
As part of today’s programme, we have invited MediaCorp to share what its plans are for PSB programming, and I hope that the industry will find it informative.
We have also been working very closely with MediaCorp to improve downstream issues. One of these has been the issue of ownership of rights to programs created through PSB funding. My colleague Chun Cheng will be able to brief you on details of how this will change, in the PSB presentation later this morning.
Another issue concerns the terms of engagement of freelancers. This is something for which we had received feedback from freelancers, and through networks such as Six Degrees. The NTUC has also been active in advocating for clearer and fairer terms on behalf of freelancers. NTUC had also suggested that an industry code be developed. As a result of these representations, we have looked at the matter very closely.
It turns out that the solution does not lie with just one party, but with multiple parties. So MediaCorp and AIPRO have been discussing how to have a clearer and better set of payment schedules from MediaCorp to producers. MDA supports this effort. We are also happy to note that AIPRO is working on a code, for which they will be seeking inputs from the freelance community. This will in turn provide clarity on payment terms and conditions from producers to freelancers. President of AIPRO, Mr Tan Chih Chong, will say more about this in his presentation. MDA looks forward to a consensus emerging from the consultations, and stands ready to support such a code. We believe that the code will eventually not just benefit PSB productions, but also form a basic norm that applies to all media production contracts.
These changes, together with revised budgets for PSB productions, will increase the likelihood for quality PSB productions to emerge. At this stage, a cautionary note is in order. Many of you have rightly reflected that while more realistic budgets will help, more money does not automatically mean that quality will increase. We will have to work at it.
We have seen that, even with what are arguably small budgets, some producers are nevertheless able to let the good quality of their work shine through. Others are not as successful. I think that a similar spread of quality will emerge, even with larger production budgets.
If the industry is to do better, we must be prepared that over time, more resources should go to those who are more resourceful, more creative, and more successful in fulfilling the PSB mission. As a wise observer pointed out, PSB funding should not be seen as an entitlement, to be divided up equally to all producers, irrespective of quality or results. And by quality, we do not mean just ratings, but equally important, whether it successfully conveys PSB messages. If we take an entitlement approach, no amount of PSB funding will ever be enough.
It is also timely to remember the purpose of public service broadcasting, which is to engage, to educate, and to inform. You are the storytellers and the chroniclers of Singapore. This is a weighty responsibility, and not one to be taken casually. This is why the public cares so much about what is produced for free-to-air TV.
To tell the stories that resonate, excite and engage our audience, we must spare no effort in searching for the very best ideas that are out there. And the very best ideas do not always originate in the world of television. At MDA, we see this when we encourage companies in the different media sectors to come together to develop “360” or transmedia content.
For this reason, we have invited Gene Tan from the National Library Board, to share with us the Singapore Memory Project. I hope that the possibilities embedded in the 5 million memories the project aims to collect, will prove to be a fruitful mine of ideas that can find their way into quality PSB productions.
Let me end with our Industry Schemes. For our industry partners not in the TV sector, I want to assure you that this morning’s emphasis on PSB television does not mean that we no longer focus on the other media sectors. We do see, however, that PSB is a significant opportunity for us to build stronger linkages between the different sub-sectors. Transmedia is an opportunity for us to bring the different media sectors, such as games, interactive media, print, music and audio-visual content into a positive reinforcing loop.
It has been a year of learning for us at MDA, as we implemented the industry grant schemes that were announced in September last year. My colleague Kenneth will provide an update, and also announce some new refinements for the music sector. Overall, we are encouraged by what we see. We have benefitted much from the feedback you have given us, and suggestions for improvement. We continue to work on how we can improve our responsiveness to applicants.
Ladies and gentlemen, with enhancements to our industry grant schemes, and now our PSB schemes, in place, a major opportunity is opening up. I hope that together with the industry, we will seize this opportunity, and push forward to raise quality, and to engage audiences in the many new platforms that technology is making available to us.
I wish you a successful year ahead.