Mediacorp plays an indispensable role amid challenging future: PM Lee Hsien Loong

The Mediacorp broadcasting complex at Caldecott Hill.
The Mediacorp broadcasting complex at Caldecott Hill. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Viewership of local television is still substantial, but the future will be challenging for Mediacorp as for most broadcasting companies in the world, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday.

Yet, it continues to play an indispensable role as Singapore's national broadcaster by helping to bring a nation together, he added at the opening of Mediacorp's new premises in Buona Vista.

These occasions included such key historic moments as the Battle for Merger radio talks by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1961, the press conference at which the late Mr Lee announced Singapore's separation from Malaysia in 1965, and the mourning of Mr Lee's death and the Golden Jubilee celebrations this year.

"In these moments we became one people," PM Lee said. On top of that, Mediacorp's entertainment and cultural shows have helped to shape the Singaporean identity.

The national broadcaster will move into the 800,000 sq ft Mediapolis @one-north campus over the next nine months from its current location in Caldecott Hill.

Singapore Press Holdings has a 20 per cent stake in Mediacorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8 and U, and a 40 per cent stake in Mediacorp Press Limited, which publishes the free newspaper, Today.

Even as Mediacorp faces greater competition for eyeballs from cable television, streaming services and social media, Mr Lee said "it must continue to produce programmes that celebrate our culture and heritage, reflect our society and values, educate and entertain its audiences, as well as report news and produce current affairs content which matter for Singaporeans."

It should not be " just another commercial entity, responding to market signals without caring about the value and significance of its content".

In this challenging environment, Mr Lee said the Government is committed to supporting Mediacorp in fulfilling these roles. He suggested three areas in which it can develop its capabilities. These are: content, digital and its communities, including its viewers, partners and staff.

While it is impossible to match the production budgets of Hollywood blockbusters like the Game of Thrones, Mr Lee said: "What we have is ours - our own perspective, our own culture, our own destiny and identity. And if we are proud of it and celebrate it, it will resonate with our audiences."

He noted the global popularity of such programmes as Korean variety show Running Man and Danish political drama Borgen, that have transcended language barriers.

He also pointed to the regional success of Mediacorp's Chinese drama The Little Nyonya. Other successful Singapore shows include the critically-acclaimed wildlife documentary Wild City by Beach House Pictures and SG50 film anthology 7 Letters, he said.

Mediacorp must continue to find ways to connect with online audiences, Mr Lee said, including developing further such platforms as streaming service Toggle.

With its move to Mediapolis, which will house other media companies as well, Mediacorp should also foster collaborations to raise standards and develop talent for the media industry.

waltsim@sph.com.sg