MDA: ACCESS Urges Free-to-Air Chinese TV Channels to Continue to Nurture Local Media Industry
Chinese free-to-air TV has been praised for supporting the local media industry through the outsourcing of programmes which, in turn, have given TV viewers more choices and a greater range of interesting programmes to choose from.
Meanwhile, Pay TV operators have been urged to step up public education efforts to generate greater awareness of their parental lock mechanisms that protect children from mature content as well as consider introducing more Chinese children’s programmes.
These were among the key recommendations and observations of the Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes (ACCESS), which today released its biennial report for the period July 2008 to June 2010.
The 18-member ACCESS committee, led by Associate Professor Lee Cheuk Yin from the National University of Singapore and comprising members of the public, advises the Media Development Authority (MDA) on the range and quality of Chinese programmes, as well as provides feedback on content guidelines so that programmes shown on the Chinese channels continue to reflect community and societal values.
Summing up ACCESS’ recommendations, Associate Professor Lee said: “On the whole, Chinese radio and TV broadcasters, including free-to-air and Pay TV, have done a good job of educating, informing and entertaining viewers. Thanks to their efforts, viewers today can enjoy a rich and engaging tapestry of different content genres for both the young and old. However, there is still room for improvement. Broadcasters should continue to provide more elderly and children’s programmes, capitalize on new media to reach out to more viewers, and improve public education efforts to help viewers make informed choices.”
Said Dr Christopher Chia, Chief Executive Officer of the Media Development Authority: “MDA’s Programme Advisory Committees such as ACCESS play an important role in highlighting community views when considering the kind of content that we, as a community, want to watch and find acceptable. MDA is pleased with the open and fruitful dialogues ACCESS had with the programmers from the Chinese channels over the past two years, which has resulted in the revamp of Channel 8’s long-running, morning talk show “Good Morning, Singapore”. We hope to see more of such industry-community partnerships in the future.”
The key observations and recommendations of the ACCESS Report are summarised as follows:
Promotion of local media industry and media talents
MediaCorp’s Channel U was commended for its efforts to promote the local media industry and nurture local media talents through outsourcing its programmes to local, independent production houses. This included Channel U’s staple of info-ed programmes, as well as dramas such as the “???? ” (Perfect Cut) series and the telemovies “???” (Cooking without Clothes), “??????” (The Promise) and “???????” (The Will). ACCESS believes that the outsourcing by Channel U helps inject more creativity and diversity in the local media scene and was pleased with the quality of these productions.
More Public Education Efforts
ACCESS also stressed the importance of raising awareness of the availability of parental locking mechanisms offered by Pay TV operators. The Committee felt that such mechanisms play an increasingly important role in protecting children from accessing content unsuitable for them. Parental awareness of how to use such features is particularly important in the light of rising Pay TV penetration rates, more rated content (“16” and “18”) being made available on Pay TV channels, as well as busy parents who are unable to supervise their children’s TV watching.
ACCESS also highlighted that with more youths accessing media content over the Internet, public education efforts on topics like cyber-wellness and safe-surfing habits were also important, and needed to be looked into.
Greater number of programmes for elderly
ACCESS was heartened by MediaCorp’s efforts to provide more programme choices for elderly viewers beyond its regular programme, “Golden Age”, when it introduced info-tainment programmes such as, “????????? “(Living the Golden Age) and info-educational programmes such as “?????” (I can do it too!).
To capture the rich stories and valuable life experiences of the elderly, the Committee suggested that Channel 8 engage the elderly to share their stories with the young. Such cultural capital make good content sources for programmes that can appeal to both the young and old.
Children and Youth programmes
Whilst ACCESS was satisfied with the quality of locally produced children’s programmes shown on Channel 8, it felt that that there could be more publicity to generate greater awareness of these programmes for instance, by cross-promoting them on other channels and time belts. Broadcasters could also work with the print media to highlight or review the children’s programmes, thereby giving them additional publicity.
On StarHub Cable Vision (SCV), ACCESS observed that there remains a limited range of Chinese children’s programmes available as compared to English children’s programmes which were offered on channels such as Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. As such, the Committee urged SCV to look into providing Chinese children’s channels to complement its current offerings.
Current Affairs, Cultural and Info-educational programmes
ACCESS commended MediaCorp for its staple Current Affairs programmes such as “????” (Money Week), “??” (Focus), “????” (Frontline) and “??” (TR Report), which continue to provide viewers with timely perspectives and insights into events and matters of local interest and relevance.
Info-education programmes such as, “????” (Modern TCM V) and “????” (Life Watch), “?????” (Diminishing Horizons), “????”?(Food Hometown), “???” (Singapore Flavours) and “??????” (Legendary Cuisines) received plaudits from the Committee. In particular, “?????” (Diminishing Horizons), was commended as a well-produced and educational programme which vividly captured the history and cultures of remote countries in other parts of the world.
ACCESS commended Channel 8’s dramas such as “????” (My School Daze), “????” (Priceless Wonder) and “?????(By My Side) for exploring universal themes of friendship and family relationships, while creating awareness among viewers on social issues such as problem gambling and promiscuity, as well as the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). ACCESS also commended Channel 8’s drama “???” (The Little Nonya) for being a quality production that meaningfully showcased the unique traits of the Peranakan culture and history.
However, ACCESS was disappointed that despite its recommendations in the earlier report, undesirable scenes and themes of violence and brutality continued to be recurring themes in local dramas. It cited “???” (The Ultimatum) and “????”, (Crimebusters X 2) as examples. The Committee was concerned that, if featured on a regular basis, viewers could becoming desensitised to such violence and other undesirable content, especially if these dramas were shown during Family Viewing Hours when children are likely to be tuning in.
ACCESS clarified that it does not expect MediaCorp to completely avoid such themes in its dramas, but would like to encourage the broadcaster to present them in a more acceptable, non-exploitative manner; or to even carry programme advisories so that viewers are made aware of their sensitive content.
Variety and Entertainment Programmes
ACCESS complimented Channel 8’s “?????” (It’s a Small World) as well-presented and interesting; as well as “???” (New Foreigner in Town) for introducing foreign cultures, and updating local viewers on global developments. The Committee found these programmes to be informative in helping to foster greater cross-cultural understanding of new immigrants to Singapore by featuring their cultures and lifestyles. ACCESS also found the programmes “?????”(Life Transformers) and “?????” (Stars for a Cause) to be touching and well-produced in creating greater awareness of the plight of the less fortunate; and could help to promote volunteerism in viewers.
Recommendations for Radio Programmes
ACCESS called for a greater level of discretion by radio stations when vetting pre-recorded content. It cited examples of radio programmes that were found to be inappropriate. These include a segment on Radio 100.3FM which featured excerpts of a Taiwanese radio programme, “????,” on gender issues that contained some crude terms with sexual connotations, and a pre-recorded segment “?????” on LOVE97.2FM which featured a prolonged interview with a caller on his numerous extramarital affairs during which, the DJ did not give alternative views to provide balance to the topic and appeared to condone the caller’s behaviour.
Review of Codes and Guidelines
ACCESS was involved in MDA’s review of various Codes, such as the TV Advertising Code, Radio Advertising Code, TV Programme Sponsorship Code and Subscription TV Programme Code.
The Committee supported MDA’s intent to expand the scope of the Radio Advertising Code to include guidelines for sponsorship of radio programmes, which is currently absent in the existing Code. ACCESS also agreed with MDA that the amended Code should stipulate that radio advertisements presented in the form of “live reads” and “open talks” be clearly identified so that listeners can clearly differentiate an “advertisement” from regular programmes and not be misled.
With regard to the Subscription TV Programme Code, ACCESS supported MDA’s move to abolish content regulation based on SCV’s tier system (i.e. “basic” and “premium” channels) as this will create parity for the pay TV service providers.
ACCESS also stressed the need to protect the young. Hence, it also recommended that the TV Advertising Code stipulates that TV advertisements for SMS interactive services targeted at young viewers feature the terms and conditions of purchasing such services clearly.
Renewal of ACCESS
Associate Professor Lee Cheuk Yin has been reappointed by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) as the Chairman of ACCESS for another two-year term. The new Committee will comprise 19 members which include counselors, educationists, academics, as well as professionals from the private and public sectors.