Singapore commits US$162M to media sector

update Country will fund research and development as well as training and manpower upgrading programs, aimed at developing local content.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The government has set aside S$250 million (US$162 million) this year to fuel the growth of the country's media sector.

This will include research and development (R&D) programs, as well as support that is projected to create and sustain some 2,000 jobs this year, the Media Development Authority (MDA) announced at a forum here Thursday.

The government agency hopes the fund injection will bolster the expected dip in industry revenue faced over the next year or two because of the economic downturn.

Christopher Chia, MDA CEO, said: "Last year, no one could have predicted the world would change so much." The MDA hopes to counter the "slight dip" the industry will go through with the various plans announced.

Chia said Singapore's media sector has enjoyed "steady growth" over the past few years, growing from S$3.8 billion (US$2.48 billion) in 2002 to an estimated worth of S$5.28 billion (US$3.45 billion) in 2008.

"The compounded annual growth rate of the media sector from 1996 to 2006 was 8 percent--higher than 5.2 percent for the overall economy," according to the MDA.

Chia touched on the government's announced Singapore Media Fusion (SMF) plan, which commits S$230 million (US$150 million) over the next five years--40 percent more than the previously-outlined Media 21 blueprint, he said.

Focus on developing local content
Several years ago, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) outlined plans for the country to become the region's testbed for international game developers and distributors, in order to deliver games to the region.

But today, Chia said the country's focus will be toward the creation of original content. He said the country has been ramping up local production, with a 2008 being a "bumper year"; for example, 17 cinematic films were released, and S$60 million (US$39 million) worth of overseas contracts were won, he said.

Chia said: "For the coming year and beyond, MDA will focus on funding a developing high-value and exportable content and applications."

In order to create more work for the industry, the government is issuing major calls for proposals across multiple arms of the industry, including TV, film, publishing, music and interactive media, he said.

Thomas Lim, director of digital media and entertainment, IDA, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail, based on the government's iN2015 masterplan, the IDA aims to develop the country into a "top location" for the trade and distribution of digital media and entertainment by the year 2015.

To build the country's games industry, the IDA has launched a program it terms the Connected Games Programme, which is aimed at bringing original games content to the market quickly, said Lim.

"The IDA noticed that small and mid-sized game companies have limited access to technology resources such as development toolkits and game engines," he added.

The IDA has plans to bridge this by setting up games resource centers to support developers, Lim said.

The MDA highlighted plans to help market local content outside Singapore.

Michael Yap, executive director of the Media Development Authority's IDM Research and Development Programme Office (IDMPO), said the industry would benefit from pooling together resources and talent.

Yap said: "We are in the convergence space, which is causing change in the industry. We want to harmonize industry efforts."

He outlined plans for the MDA's "Future of Media" program, which will form five partner networks to help grow start-ups in the country. Since 2007, the country has grown 120 young start-ups from "zero", he said.

Some 20 industry players will also join the government agency in calling for proposals, opening up their combined user bases of "potentially hundreds of millions" to industry start-ups. He gave an example of such collaboration: telco SingTel, social network Friendster and mobile chat software provider Mozat coming together would provide reach to a combined user base of 300 million, he said.

Additionally, the MDA will commit S$6 million (US$3.9 million) to fund training and manpower upgrading programs this year, which is expected to benefit 6,000 talents.

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