Let’s be honest, Singapore’s media and arts scenes, still kinda sucks. Hong Kong’s vibrant movie industry has produced its fair share of silver screen icons like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee or Donnie Yen. Japanese pop culture likewise, has made a significant impact in our society. Japanese manga and anime have a religious following of millions of devoted fans. And you won’t find a shortage of gamers savoring the latest Nintendo or Sony consoles released from Japan. South Korean pop culture has also made in roads in Singapore and across the world. Popular k dramas like Descendants of the Sun, W. and Goblin have millions of viewers binge watching episodes into the night. K pop icons have gained international recognition, topping charts in Asia, Europe and North America.
Singapore’s media and arts scene by comparison, is still in its infancy. While artistes like the Sam Willows, Gentle Bones and Nathan Hartono have made a name for themselves, we still have a long way to go before developing a mature industry and environment that remotely resembles the rest of our Asian counterparts. The ratings of our local Mediacorp shows pale in comparison to the big hit K-dramas. You won’t find much local enthusiasm for local blockbusters when compared with the latest Hollywood and Hong Kong productions. For all the international accolades to our name , we’re sorely lacking a mature media and arts scene. I believe this has to do with a number of different factors.
Poor state of press freedom
While Singapore tops the region and the world in many numerous accolades – Public safety, GDP per capita, life expectancy and low corruption, we still lag behind in the press freedom department. The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index ranks Singapore 154th out of 180 countries. This puts us on par with Putin’s Russia and the African oasis that is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Excessive regulations against the arts
It doesn’t help that local artists, musicians, writers and producers have a mountain of regulations stacked against them.
Local culture that prioritizes quantifiable growth over intangible value
Pragmatism has been the modus operandi of the state since Singapore’s independence. From the very founding of modern Singapore , economic growth was always the priority. Intangible resources such as the media and arts had to be sacrificed on the altar of progress. Math ans Science till this day is still highly prized subjects as compared to, say Art and Music. This culture even permeates into the family unit. A common excuse raised by parents is that one cannot make a living of being an artist or musician. One has to be a banker, lawyer, engineer or doctor to be someone of value in society. This reflects a wider problem with our culture; we aren’t doing enough to empower or affirm our artists, musicians, writers or actors.