SINGAPORE: Local dramas produced by Mediacorp and independent producers have seen fresh concepts and better scripts with more authentic storylines and characters.
These were among the findings in the annual report by the Info-communications Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Programme Advisory Committees (PACs). The four committees, which review English, Chinese, Malay and Indian programmes, provide feedback on broadcast content in Singapore.
In its report released on Thursday (Aug 24), IMDA said the PACs noted greater diversity in drama themes, with some featuring subject matters that were topical, educational and even taboo. For instance, The Strength Within which was shown on Vasantham covered mental health issues - a topic rarely explored in Tamil dramas, IMDA said.
It also noted that previous concerns on the "over-reliance on dark themes" such as vengeance and revenge in Tamil storylines have been addressed "with an injection of greater thematic diversity".
Other drama programmes highlighted in the report include Peace and Prosperity (Channel 8). The inclusion of multi-racial characters "resulted in a more balanced portrayal of Singapore society", IMDA said.
The committees also praised broadcasters for increasingly leveraging digital and social media to increase the appeal and reach of information programmes.
"In particular, CNA Insider was singled out as an example of current affairs content that is highly discoverable and shareable online," IMDA said.
The PACs were also generally satisfied with local current affairs and info-educational series, commending both genres for "high production standards and for spotlighting well-researched, timely issues creatively and sensitively".
"In particular, members commended the use of engaging presentation formats such as the use of social experiments to explore social issues," IMDA said. It highlighted Channel NewsAsia's documentaries Regardless of Race as well as Turn Back The Clock, which "reflected social realities and facilitated discussions on sensitive issues like racial ties and aging".
On children's content, the PACs welcomed the increase of dramas and information programmes such as Those Darn Questions (Channel 8) and Abraeureka! (okto), which tapped on "innovative storytelling styles and unique concepts to foster audience interest in history, media literacy and science", IMDA said.
The committees also commended Mediacorp’s first English-Mother Tongue Languages bilingual preschool programme, Junction Tree, for its educational value.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
However, the PACs urged broadcasters and producers to ensure greater consistency in scripting and technical standards across dramas. Citing examples such as P.I. (Channel 5) and Kelab J (Suria), the committees said they had observed some productions lagging in those areas.
Having seen past successful examples from Tamil and other language productions, the Indian PAC further recommended that public service broadcasters increase cultural diversity in casting, and step up on efforts to nurture new acting and production talent.
To reach out to young viewers, the PACs suggested offering more original, short-form content as web series to complement TV offerings. For instance, segments from Little Life Hacks (Channel 8), which features hosts filming do-it-yourself home craft tutorials, could be uploaded on digital platforms to be shared on social media, IMDA said.
The PACs also recommended that long-running current affairs series such as Bicara (Suria) could refresh their presentation formats to avoid audience fatigue.
With rising concerns over the proliferation of misinformation, the PACs noted that there is a gap in "credible, creatively presented current affairs series that would appeal to youth", IMDA said. In response, the committee members suggested that youth-friendly series with more investigative and interactive approaches "could contribute to developing a more informed, mature society over time".
The PACs also noted that there have been cases of programming issues which led to financial penalties imposed on broadcasters such as SPH Radio and Toggle, both of which featured racially stereotypical remarks that some audience members found offensive.
REPORT "VERY ENCOURAGING": MEDIACORP
In a statement, Mediacorp said: "It’s very encouraging that the PACs have commended us on first, our efforts to feature fresh concepts and better scripts, storylines and characters in our drama programmes and second, the high production standards and our endeavour to spotlight timely issues creatively and sensitively in our current affairs and infotainment programmes, among other observations."
Those are part of the broadcaster's efforts to "reinvigorate" content and "innovate" genres and style, said a spokesperson.
"We will also continue to invest in resources and work with the industry to sharpen our ability to deliver quality and relevant content to our audiences, and leverage digital and social media to increase the appeal and reach of our programmes," Mediacorp said.