MDA was formed on 1 January 2003 by the merger of Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA), the Films and Publications Department (FPD) and the Singapore Film Commission (SFC), in response to a national call to develop a globally competitive media industry in Singapore. An industry blueprint called Media 21 was also drawn up and eventually endorsed by the 2002 Economic Review Committee (chaired by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) – as part of the Creative Industries Development Strategy to propel the growth of Singapore’s creative economy.
Singapore Broadcasting Authority
Prior to the merger, SBA, which was formed on October 1994 under the purview of the previous Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA), was set up to regulate the broadcasting industry in Singapore.
Films and Publications Department
FPD was set up as a department under the then MITA to regulate the content of films and publications on 1st Jan 1998. The Board of Film Censors was a part of the FPD, responsible for classification of films and videos.
Singapore Film Commission
Following the footsteps of film promotion in other countries, SFC was established on 1998. Following the release of the recommendations under Media 21, SFC was merged under the MDA in 2003.
Roles of MDA
The Media Development Authority is responsible for promoting and regulating the Singapore media sector. MDA’s function is to grow the media industry by stimulating job creation, seeding and attracting investments, while setting standards that lay the foundation for building a cohesive and inclusive society.
One of MDA’s key initiatives is to develop industry roadmaps that position Singapore as the nucleus where media content, services and applications are financed, made and traded for the world. Media 21 was the first roadmap established by MDA in 2003 in response to global media convergence. More recently, the Singapore Media Fusion Plan (SMFP), a national media development blueprint, was launched in 2009 to s create the best environment in Singapore for media businesses to exploit new opportunities in digital media and move up the value chain, while enhancing the global appeal of Singapore media through international partnerships.
In 2011, MDA also revised its funding schemes. It now has 4 main schemes namely Production Assistance, Development Assistance, Marketing Assistance and Talent Assistance to help support different stages of a project. These schemes are applicable to projects across various sectors such as Film, Animation, Interactive media, Games, Publishing, Broadcast and Music.
Next-Generation Media Regulator
MDA’s other key responsibility is to create and enforce regulatory policies that make Singapore an attractive place to encourage investment and innovation in the media sector, leading to more choices for consumers. Since the 1990s (under the purview of SBA) until now, it see itself leading the charge to address the latest challenges and opportunities faced by the media industry posed by media convergence and a digital media era through convergence regulation. For example, it was the first to articulate Internet policies and establish Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standards in Southeast Asia.
Its regulatory approach gradually shifted towards industry co-regulation and consultation to stimulate industry growth and yet serve the public interest for a maximum number of households in Singapore. Their focus appears to be to design policy frameworks that facilitate industry growth, whilst enabling informed choices and protecting the young from undesirable content.
A key challenge for the regulator is how to ensure its policies keep in-step with community values to bring about community-led content standards, whilst providing an excellent level of customer responsiveness to customers. Recent examples include the introduction of new ratings under their content classification standards (e.g. PG13), and previously SBA’s Class Licence Scheme.
Like regulators in developed countries like Australia and the UK, MDA works with other public agencies and various community groups to raise media literacy standards through public education initiatives to nurture a media savvy and connected society. MDA has initiated programmes that help to cultivate critical media awareness skills and cyber wellness values.