SINGAPORE: The diversity and production quality of dramas and local infotainment programmes have improved in the period spanning August 2014 to March 2016, according to the latest annual report by the Media Development Authority's Programme Advisory Committees (PACs). The committees however also flagged areas of concern, like the use of in-programme advertising in some productions, saying this was misleading to viewers.
The PACs are advisory committees that provide feedback to MDA on broadcast content in Singapore, especially locally produced public service broadcast programmes. The four PACs, which review English, Chinese, Malay and Indian programmes, consist of members of the public across various age groups, ethnicities, occupations, areas of interest and specialisation, according to MDA.
In a press release on Monday (Sep 26), MDA said the PACs had observed improvements in storytelling standards, cinematography and editing techniques for the dramas produced during the period in review. They noted a wider range of themes and genres in the dramas reviewed, including themes such as active aging as well as courtroom issues and genres such as psychological thrillers, which were not attempted as much previously.
Long-form dramas such as 118 (Channel 8) and Tanglin (Channel 5) were also a "welcome addition" as they provided platforms to present topical issues in a light-hearted manner, the report said.
The PACs also noted an improvement in the range of infotainment programmes, "moving beyond the perennial favourite subject of food to include local history and health".
The period under review also saw the release of SG50 programmes on Channel NewsAsia to commemorate Singapore's golden jubilee. The committee members commended the productions, noting the quality of research and messages conveyed, as well as how the programmes presented information and concepts in clear and easily understood terms.
Among the programmes cited: Wild City, a wildlife documentary about Singapore narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough, as well as Commandos, which traces the journey of army recruits.
The committees also commended Mediacorp's timely and comprehensive coverage of the 2015 General Election as well as fitting tributes to the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, noting that Channel NewsAsia documentaries such as Neither Time Nor Tide, Forging A Nation and In His Own Words were befitting tributes that served to educate younger viewers on Mr Lee's contributions.
The PACs also recognised "strides taken by broadcasters to meet changing consumption patterns", including the enhancement of "over-the-top services", such as Mediacorp’s Toggle, which were described as "important repositories of local content made available even to non-subscribers".
Committees also commended the use of social media to discuss and promote programmes, citing Channel 5's Spouse For House, whose promotional video "Unbelievable" went viral online.
Screengrab from video "Unbelievable" to promote Channel 5's Spouse for House.
According to MDA, the PACs commended the more than 20 programmes supported by MDA under the PSB Contestable Funds Scheme (PCFS) for "their originality and for injecting diversity into the PSB landscape". One example of a PCFS-supported programme is locally produced telemovie Spelling Armadillo, which was nominated for the International Emmy Kids Award last year.
"With the exception of a few, the PACs lauded PCFS-supported programmes for their production standards with good research, scripting and technical values," MDA said, adding that some PCFS-supported programmes had also been developed into transmedia content like comic books for better audience engagement.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
The authorities said that while feedback on dramas produced during the period in review was largely positive, the PACs felt that some producers could imbue more depth and balance into their stories.
The committees also urged broadcasters to offer more "comprehensive coverage of issues" in current affairs programmes. They called upon current affairs shows such as On the Red Dot (Channel 5) and Ethiroli (Vasantham) to deliver stronger feature stories and analysis, noting some unevenness across episodes in terms of depth.
Producers of Malay current affairs programmes were also encouraged to widen the range of topics covered to include national interest issues such as national development, economic restructuring, and enterprise and innovation. In addition, both Indian and Malay PACs felt that it was important to have a more diverse discussion panel and competent hosting of forum-based current affairs programmes, MDA said.
The PACs also requested for more infotainment programmes for the silver generation, suggesting that producers could crowd-source for ideas from seniors.
Public feedback to MDA relating to in-programme advertising in broadcast programmes brought attention to some advertising segments on Channel 5 and Channel 8 inserted just before a programme's end credits. MDA said these segments featured the programme’s characters promoting products on the same sets as if they were part of the programme, and while the PACs did not have objections to the use of a programme’s artistes or sets for advertorials, they felt that such advertising segments should be clearly distinguishable from the rest of the programme.
The Malay and Indian PACs also expressed concern about what they said was a "high frequency of health supplement advertisements" on radio stations Warna and Oli, as these advertisements were aired in the late morning and early afternoon and specifically targeted at homemakers and the elderly who "may be more susceptible to resorting to using these products for self-treatment instead of seeking professional help for their medical conditions", MDA said in the press release.
"WE WELCOME PAC'S FEEDBACK": MEDIACORP
In a statement, Mediacorp said it was glad the PAC has observed "better storytelling standards in our programmes across channels".
"There's a lot of content out there but clearly, local productions, through improved quality, remain close to the hearts of our audiences," a spokesperson for the broadcaster said.
"We welcome PAC’s feedback as we work at improving our content and providing great options to engage our audiences on multiple platforms," Mediacorp added.