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Essay: The Role of Media in Singapore’s Growing Multicultural Society

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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  • Words: 1,084 (approx)
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Singapore is an island state located in southeast Asia, with the population of 5,567,301

and land area of 624 square kilometers, it lies in the southern tip of Malay Peninsula; officially known as the Republic Singapore. Before Singapore’s independence it used to be a part of Malaysia’s 14 states from 1963 up till 1965, from this point on modern Singapore comes in. Singapore follows a democratic multiparty political system, it is a growing country with a multicultural and diverse population. Over the decades it grew to be one of the most economically flourishing cities in Asia, as well as the safest and cleanest, all thanks to Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore. Although Lee Kwan Yew got a lot of criticism for his authoritarian style in leading, his firm grip on the countries press freedom stopped any corrupt financial practices, and again under his leadership and influence Lee Kwan Yew turned a third world country into a first world country in one single generation which is quite extraordinary. Singapore is a true example of a country in which it started from nothing but despite that it exceeded expectations overcoming its own initial limitations.

Media is crucially important for every nation and its citizens, it’s how you connect with everything happening around you, it’s the window to the world surrounding you, from TV’s, radios, internet, newspapers, etc. In Singapore, the media area is highly controlled, there is a lot of structure and strict guidelines to it put by the government yet it is highly diverse with its different mediums. Throughout the changes in Singapore the media surprisingly didn’t change and remained stable throughout, with new mediums there are little underlying changes, but nothing major to the main media structure set in Singapore. The media sectors had been growing in the past years in Singapore especially in the video game subsectors, which also led to growth in full time employment, despite that Singapore’s media sector still needs more work for it to grow fully. The Info COMM Media Development Authority (IMDA) aims to help that happen by bringing in competitive media companies into the market in Singapore, which is a good initiative. For the most part media in Singapore isn’t growing as rapidly because there isn’t much investing into it because of how controlled it is, but despite that there is still much to elaborate on.

The Radio

Currently, Singapore has 18 operating radio stations and 2,600,000 radio receivers but it wasn’t always like that, Radio signals had been traveling through Southeast Asia since the 1920’s, it started off in pre-independent Singapore as more of an experiment, it wasn’t until 1936 where radio transmissions in Singapore became a regular broadcasting service by a private company called British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Soon after, in 1940, the British colonial company government took over the radio station and managed it as the Broadcasting station, the following year, which is 1941, the control was yet again given to another management which goes under a quasi-government organization, and it is the Malayan Broadcasting Corporation, it was more of a collaboration between the governments of the Straits Settlements and the United Kingdom. There is still uncertainty in the recorded dates of the first broadcasting radio station history in Singapore due to the frequent changes in who held the control over it all.

Fast forward to radio in independent Singapore, 1965-1994. August 9, 1965 the man who turned Singapore into the great country it is today, Lee Kuan Yew, was interviewed on the radio and said “For me it is a moment of anguish because all my adult life I have believed in the merger and unity of these two territories” in which he means the territories of Malaysia and Singapore. In the late 1980s Singapore radios switched from a UK oriented model to a more US based model in programming because of the growing popularity of Indonesian radio, which was a type of a commercial mentality boost. The radio became the main medium for the government in Singapore to put out their messages to the public, as well as it was the most popular way for entertainment because it was affordable, in other words it was the golden era for Singapore radio and it was practical and beneficial within both governmental and entertainment purposes.


Despite all the changes on how we receive news and all the different mediums and technologies, everyone goes back to trusting the newspapers, it’s one of the first and most trusted forms of news. Singapore has high literacy and affluence rates, which leads to having a high readership rate for newspapers that is continuing to grow. Singapore publishes newspapers in all of its four official languages, and in 1998 it was estimated that the total newspaper circulation stood at 1,056,000, the English press makes up almost half of it which is 49.1 percent and Chinese newspaper makes up about 43.9 percent, Malay 6.2 percent, and finally Tamil which ranks the lowest makeup 0.8 percent. Major newspapers rank as the following: 1. The Straits Times, an English daily newspaper founded in 1845 with the circulation of 369,773. 2. The Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese daily newspaper with the circulation of 202,063. 3. The Nanyang Siang Pau and the Sin Chew Jit Poh, both Chinese and published in 1983, they were merged due to government influence. 4. Shin Min Daily, a Chinese newspaper established in 1988 with the circulation of 112,497. 5. The New Paper, an English newspaper established in 1988 with the circulation of 107,080. These are all morning newspapers and they are considered is a way a part of a quality press, while newspapers published in the afternoon are considered more sensation-oriented, catering less to long term subscribers. All local daily newspapers on the island of Singapore were publicly owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), until the early 2000s. SPH is involved in many different aspects of publishing such as Home and Décor, Her World, and You Weekly, each of them focuses on a different criterion of audiences, this company is highly profitable and beneficial and it employs around 3,000 workers. In order to create competition for the many publications belonging to SPH, the government provided permission for Media Corporation of Singapore (MCS) to come into this market. In 2002, it was announced by the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts announced that Media Development Authority (MDA), will supervise all media in Singapore in addition to supporting and helping local media content. It’s no surprise that newspapers have a huge popularity in Singapore being one of the countries with the highest literacy rates.

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