Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Government Response to AIMS Recommendations

January 9, 2009

You can read the full report (18 pages) here.  Basically, the government has accepted 17 of 26 proposals from AIMS, the most significant of them being the phased liberalisation of the ban on party political films.  However, it’s not a full liberalisation either (bolded emphasis my own):

As a first step under the phased approach, the Government will amend the Films Act to allow for certain types of party political films. Films that are factual and objective, and do not dramatise and/or present a distorted picture will be allowed under the amended Films Act. These will include factual documentaries and footages, recordings of actual events, and biographies or autobiographies.

The question that comes to mind is regarding the policing of the content in any “factual” footage.  For example, what if someone uses his cellphone camera and records footage of a politician’s speech at the Speakers’ Corner and the politician expresses opinions that are deemed to be “distorted” – does that run afoul of the law?  One way to address this would be to set more specific guidelines for what is deemed to be a party political film.  Hence, the government has accepted the proposal for the setting up of an independent advisory panel to advise on whether a film is a party political film:

The Government also accepts the AIMS’ recommendation to set up an independent advisory panel which will make up of citizens of high standing and who are non-partisan. The role of this panel is to advise the Board of Film Censors whether films are party political films and if they can be allowed under the amended Films Act.

The advisory panel will be chaired by Mr Richard Magnus, retired Senior District Judge and Chairman of the Casino Regulatory Authority.

A quick Google search shows that Mr Richard Magnus was the senior district judge who presided over the sentencing of the two racist bloggers under the Sedition Act.

Overall progress, yes, but let’s wait and see for the specifics of the amended Films Act as well as the list of the “citizens of high standing” who will form the rest of the independent advisory panel.

[For a more detailed explanation of why the Films Act’s ambiguity can be dangerous for the everyman, read Yawning Bread]

Singapore #1 in Movie-going, #196 in Movie-making

December 11, 2008

A statistic that jumped out at me as I read a VarietyAsia article was that Singaporeans are number 1 in yet another category, this time in our movie-going frequency. The average Singaporean goes to the cinema 4 times a year. This doesn’t sound like much on the first read, but consider this: South Koreans, even with their thriving filmmaking industry that produced critical and commercial hits like OldBoy and My Sassy Girl, only venture to the cinemas 3.3 times a year, and for the Chinese, it’s once every ten years! A Chinese person going to the cinema is an even rarer event than the Olympics and World Cup!

So why are Singaporeans so obsessed with going to the cinema compared to our Asian peers? This is most typically explained with a shrug and an accompanying “nothing else to do in Singapore, wat” comment. Shuffling into a dark soundproof hall with crowds of other people might be the only escape one can get from the ubiquitous city. You’d think that a people so obsessed with movies should have a thriving local film industry, but alas, local films, aside from Jack Neo’s films (and maybe now Royston Tan’s) are the stragglers in this aspect. A vestige of Singapore’s colonial past is the (as a friend so eloquently put it) “ang moh is better” mindset that pervades the general population’s choices of entertainment. It’s like how Singaporeans are all die-hard Manchester United fans (“I supported them since 1992!” – as if that automatically confers English citizenship on them and makes them fans of grey skies and fish n’ chips).

I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation about cinema revenues in Singapore, detailed below. I assumed that the average price of a ticket was $10, and that 40% of ticket holders buy a $4 popcorn and $3 soda from the concession stands. I consider this assumption to be fairly conservative – a distributor would be crazy not to push harder to sell their high-margin concession items.

Singapore’s population as of mid-2008:
4,839,000

x 4 trips / year

= 19.356 million tickets sold every year

x ($10 / ticket + 40% * $7 in concessions)

= ~$250 million industry

Which is kinda small. No wonder efforts to position Singapore as a media production hub faces many hurdles – why would they produce their film/show in Singapore studios when even if the government throws its weight behind it and encourages all local citizens to watch a made-in-Singapore production, they can barely turn a profit on the production costs? Singapore is no Australia.

Let’s say one day the Communist party manages to eradicate piracy and the Chinese start going to the cinema once a year to catch the blockbusters like The Dark Knight, how much would that be?

China’s population as of July 2007:
1,321,851,888

X 1 trip / year

X (S$10 / ticket + 40% * S$7 in concessions)

= ~$17 billion industry

$17 billion??? That’s not an industry, that’s an economy. Rather than converting Chinese movies like Infernal Affairs and converting them into Hollywood blockbusters, I’d do the reverse – take the best that Hollywood has to offer and tailor it for Chinese audiences.

Media in Singapore

November 29, 2008

Some broad trends to think about, for those interested in starting media ventures in Singapore:

* The Singapore Media Development Authority (“MDA”), under the auspices of the Singapore government and in the same fashion as the ill-conceived Goal 2010, has begun doling out money to startups in the Interactive Digital Media (“IDM”) space, aspiring to create 10,000 media jobs by 2015.  This means that in spite of the credit crunch, there is still grant money to be pocketed.  Most recent example is the $10mm set aside for the development of the 3D film/animation industry, a move which was announced at the 3DFX festival held in Singapore.  It appears that the focus of their charity is mainly on the animation and gaming sectors, with a special emphasis on Second Life and all online MMORPG.  Good news for the computer science graduates, bad news for the communications folk.

* MDA also aims to transform Singapore into an Asian media hub, in spite of the film industry still being in its nascent stages.  Lucasfilm has set up shop in Singapore, NYU has set up a branch of their Tisch film school in Singapore and film financing funds are slowly trickling into the region.  The icing on the cake is that we’ve also begun granting citizenship to Chinese/HK celebrities such as Gong Li and building gilded apartments for them to live in, so Singapore might one day have the luxury feel of Monaco and Cannes.

* The print industry in Singapore, in contrast to its counterpart in the US, is actually surviving.  Newspaper and magazine companies have increased their circulation in recent years.  I am rather puzzled as to how this can be the case – Singapore probably has one of the higher rates of broadband Internet penetration in Asia as well, so I’d imagine that most folk would be heading online to get their fix of news articles.  Coupled with the dearth of options for newspaper-readers in Singapore, I see this as the little spike before the giant plunge.