Date of Award

1-1-1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

Language, Literature and Media studies

Faculty

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Shoesmith

Abstract

1990 marked a significant change in the political history of Singapore – it was the year Mr. Lee Kuan Yew handed over his role as Singapore’s leader to Mr. Goh Chok Tong. Termed “The Next Lap”, this new period of Singapore’s history was heralded in as a period of change and new directions for Singapore and Singaporeans. This thesis explores the introduction of the Next Lap, the promises of positive changes and the potential effect this new era may have on the Singapore Government’s intimate relationship with and control of the media as a Nation Building apparatus. It looks at the Government’s continued desire to control the media and struggle to re-negotiate its position due to the development of new media technologies, such as satellite television, which have the ability to elude direct control over its broadcasting capacity.The mass media in Singapore have always been strictly controlled through the practice of censorship, strict broadcasting guidelines (and severe penalties for those who do not abide by these guidelines) as well as self-censorship. Through strict control of the mass media, the Government has been able to use it to promote desirable values which have been identified as crucial to the process of Nation Building. These values include putting the nation before community and the community before self, the importance of the family as the basic unit of society and racial and religious harmony. However, recently there have been signs that the Singapore Government has realised the need to make some changes to their broadcasting policies. The change coincided with the transfer of leadership from the former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, to the current Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong. When he came into office, Prime Minister Goh promised that there would be more openness. This thesis examines how the policy of 'openness' applies to the mass media and the possible consequences of the changes implicit in the new policy on the mass media. Results of the change in political climate are reflected in the recent introduction of three pay television channels in Singapore and a review of the censorship laws. To many Singaporeans, this is a welcome: sign, an opportunity for more choice. To the Government, it involves an important question: To what degree should they relax control over the media and bow to the demands of the public for more freedom and choice. The relationship between the Next Lap and the mass media will be examined through the application of Hobsbawm's (1983) theory of invented traditions', Bhabha's (1990a) discussions on the difficulties of locating a nation1 s cultural identity and Foucault's (1979) analysis on the art of government. By applying these theories, I will show that the Next Lap.is an ongoing process of Singapore political and social construction. With the apparent change in the political climate in Singapore, it is timely to explore the relationship between the Government and the mass media after 25 years of independence. By looking at the important social. and political variables, I will show that the relaxation of mass media in the Next Lap represents a continuation of the Singaporean government's 'desire to control the media for Nation Building activities.

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