Arts, Media & Journalism overview: Making the cut
The past year has seen Singapore's emerging media thrive in a multi-platform industry of creative content and technological capabilities. This year, be prepared for another promising phase for Singapore, to once again break barriers and strengthen its vision of becoming a truly global media city.
By Pamela Almeda
In Year 2005, we saw heart-warming dramas like Chase and action-packed animations such as Nanoboy. The same year marked another technological milestone as Asia’s first mobile content, entitled P.S. I Love You, was produced in Singapore. To top it off, Eric Khoo’s award-winning film Be With Me was the opening film of the Cannes Film Festival last year.
Riding on last year’s momentum, there is yet another list of exciting media content that will touch lives and captivate the senses in 2006. To be released for the first quarter of this year is the graphically-charged animation Zodiac, The Race Begins. Around the same time, Royston Tan’s film on solitude, 4:30, will be out. By the second quarter of the year, watch out for another romantic comedy, February 29, and a killer movie with an international cast, One Last Dance.
Cinema retains culture and consolidates identity. As such, filmmaking is also an important historical experience. Recognising this, Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) has set up ready avenues for training and development of key players in the film industry. Moreover, producers can take advantage of financial incentives, funding schemes and a network of co-production partners and investors.
Looking at the economy of films, it is inevitable for Singapore to embrace the international market in order to capture a critical mass, which will enable significant return on investments. Hence, “internationalisation” is another key word in today’s media business.
Another hot trend under the umbrella of digitisation is the digital cinema. These can be found not only in Eng Wah or Cathay’s cinemas but even in Fort Canning Park’s “movies under the stars”. Digital cinema boasts of better programme variety and flexibility, which allows these cinema organisations to better serve their loyal customers. Finally, High Definition technology allows for lower production costs, making filmmaking more accessible in the long run.
It is foreseen that television as well as radio will see dynamic growth within the next five years. By 2008, television and radio is expected to grow to about S$400 and S$320 million respectively.
The latest technology, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is cheap and allows for the real time broadcast of video and audio to billboards and the like. Thus, advertising strategies will be changing in this modern age.
The aftermath of the recent media merger and the closing down of SPH’s Mediaworks has made Mediacorp the sole monopoly in Singapore’s television broadcasting industry. It is important for Singapore to expand its market by focusing on exportable content. One avenue to tap is MDA’s Scheme for Co-investment in Exportable Content (SCREEN).
Currently the biggest and most popular market in the world is China, and Singapore does not intend to lag behind in entering it. Hence, Channel NewsAsia’s expansion into China is highly important. Understanding China’s culture and how things work is necessary for Singapore to come up with good Chinese-oriented programmes.
Meanwhile, memorandums of understanding between various countries like Korea and Japan enable Singapore to better understand media processes as they exchange up-to-date and relevant policies or views. It is expected that television programming in Singapore will further mature and develop.
As high quality programmes can be traced back to its creators, the issue of Singapore having limited talent pool can best be solved by providing a vibrant environment with endless possibilities for creativity to thrive.
The print and publishing sector, including book, magazine and newspaper publishing, is expected to maintain steady growth over the next three years.
Cherian George, assistant professor at NTU and former journalist of the Straits Times identifies educational media as one important niche that should be developed.
One of these educational media companies, Singapore’s World Scientific Publishing Group, is already well-respected in the international arena. Many Ivy League universities have already adopted a number of their titles. The children’s book, Shaolin: Legends of Chinese Zen & Kung Fu, which also targets children from North America and other international markets, was also launched late last year in the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Again, as in other media platforms, the printed word will undergo a process of digitisation in the form of e-books. PriceWaterhouse Coopers estimates that from 2004 to 2009, sales of e-books will total $182 million to $2.2 billion respectively. This big leap can be justified by today’s tech-savvy Generation Y, who were born into a world dominated by digital gadgets and grew up comfortable using the Internet.
However, the traditional form of the printed word will definitely remain relevant in the near future even with the advent of mobile devices. This is due to the fact that the newspaper can be brought anywhere and everywhere, and is relatively cheaper than digital news. Most importantly, you don’t need a battery to read a newspaper.
David Galloway, former president of Torstar Corp., one of Canada’s biggest media companies, agrees with this. In an article posted on the December 2000 issue of Thunderbird, the University of British Columbia’s Online Journalism Magazine, he says that it is the “feel” of a newspaper as compared to a screen that retains newspaper readers. “Would anyone really look forward to a Sunday morning curled up in an easy chair with a cup of coffee and a computer screen? I don’t think so. A newspaper in its present form works. It’s already wonderfully interactive. You can pick it up and put it down whenever you want.”
Digital Media is today’s buzzword. The MDA and other government bodies are pumping significant amount of funding for content producers. MDA’s Digital Development Scheme, for example, is one place to seek funding for new ideas.
In digital media we see the convergence of all media platforms from print to broadcast and also film. Even advertisements are converted to electronic digital media. Within the region, Singapore is among the countries with the highest penetration of broadband Internet services. 99% of all residential HDBs are cable ready. The computer literacy in Singapore is also one of the highest in the world. Mobile television can also be found in buses and taxis all over Singapore in the form of TVMobile.
At the heart of digital media is digital animation. For 3D animation, creativity has to be fused with technical skills, state-of-the art technology and complex algorithms to achieve realistic-looking characters. Webisodes and blogs are also becoming hit among teens nowadays. Web-based television poses a promising future as this medium is in line with today’s trend of globalisation.
Digitisation is indeed the future of today’s media. With the advent of 3G phones, streaming videos become possible. However, we have to wait for this technology to become mature and widespread, before content developers can see its economic viability.
There is a bright future for Singapore’s media in the year ahead. Singapore has the flexibility and multi-cultural understanding to expand into other markets. In addition to this, the environment of transparency encourages more investors and multinational companies to set up their regional headquarters in Singapore. Moreover, the sensitive issues in media business which include financing and Intellectual Property rights, are things which Singapore is stringent about. Hence we can look forward to attracting good business partners and further strengthening the media industry in Singapore.