Mass media in Singapore

The mass media in Singapore refers to mass communication methods through broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet available in the city-state. Singapore's media environment is dominated by two major players, Mediacorp and SPH Media Trust.[1][2][3]

Comprising the publishing, print, broadcasting, film, music, digital, and IT media sectors, the media industry collectively employed about 38,000 people and contributed 1.56% to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001 with an annual turnover of S$10 billion. The industry grew at an average rate of 7.7% annually from 1990 to 2000, and the government seeks to increase its GDP contribution to 3% by 2012.[4][5]


The Ministry of Communications and Information is the government's regulatory body that imposes and enforces regulation over locally produced media content. It also decides on the availability of published media from abroad. Political, regulatory and structural control over all media forms restricts and discourages criticism of the government.[6][7][8][9][10] Issues deemed to be inciting racial and religious hatred are prohibited,[11][12] and media advocating non-traditional family units and lifestyles are avoided.[13][14][15]

Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm Temasek Holdings, and are often perceived as pro-government.[3][16][17] In 2021, Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 158 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index.[18]

In 2011, 56% of 1,092 local respondents to a telephone poll agreed that "there is too much government control of newspapers and television", and 48% felt that "newspapers and television are biased when they report on Singapore politics, political parties and elections".[19]

Radio and television broadcasting

After it acquired the assets of SPH MediaWorks in 2004, the state-owned broadcaster Mediacorp currently owns and operates all six free-to-air terrestrial local television channels licensed to broadcast in Singapore, as well as 12 radio channels. The majority of radio stations in Singapore are mainly operated by Mediacorp with the exception of seven stations, which are operated by So Drama! Entertainment (a part of the Singapore Armed Forces) and SPH Media Trust respectively. The only radio station in Singapore that is entirely outside government control is the BBC Far Eastern Relay station, which broadcasts the BBC World Service locally on 88.9 FM.[3]

Private ownership of TV satellite dishes was previously forbidden.[20]


The Newspaper and Printing Presses Act of 1974 states:

No person shall print or publish or assist in the printing or publishing of any newspaper in Singapore unless the chief editor or the proprietor of the newspaper has previously obtained a permit granted by the Minister authorising the publication thereof, which permit the Minister may in his discretion grant, refuse or revoke, or grant subject to conditions to be endorsed thereon.

Newspaper and Printing Presses Act of 1974, Cap. 206, Sec. 21. —(1)

Section 10 of the same act gives the Minister the power to appoint the management shareholders of all newspaper companies and to control any transfers of such management shares.[21] The same section specifies that a management share equals 200 ordinary shares for "any resolution relating to the appointment or dismissal of a director or any member of the staff of a newspaper company",[21] and that the number of management shares must equal at least 1% of ordinary shares.[21] This gives the management shareholders, and by proxy the government, a minimum 66% majority in any votes regarding staffing decisions.

The print media are largely controlled by SPH Media Trust, publisher of the flagship English-language daily, The Straits Times. SPH publishes all daily newspapers with the exception of TODAY, which is owned by Mediacorp, now a digital publication. In 2009, a United States diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks[22] quotes Chua Chin Hon, The Straits Times US bureau chief, saying that the paper's "editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line", and that "the government exerts significant pressure on ST editors to ensure that published articles follow the government's line".[23] As with worldwide trends, SPH readership and subscription numbers have stagnated since the early-2000s, as Singaporeans increasingly turned to online media for their news.[24]

As of 2008, there are 16 newspapers in active circulation. Daily newspapers are published in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Under a reciprocal agreement between Malaysia and Singapore, Malaysia's New Straits Times newspaper may not be sold in Singapore, and Singapore's The Straits Times may not be sold in Malaysia. This is largely due to the history between these two countries.

See also


  1. "Singapore profile". BBC News. 5 September 2017.
  2. Branigin, William (17 December 1990). "SINGAPORE VS. THE FOREIGN PRESS". Washington Post.
  3. "Singapore profile - Media". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 17 February 2020. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  4. "Media Overview". Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. Archived from the original on 10 September 2006. Retrieved 17 September 2006.
  5. "Media 21: Transforming Singapore into a Global Media City" (PDF). Media Development Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2006. Retrieved 17 September 2006.
  6. "Singapore".
  7. "Singapore journalist on self-censorship: we can't be controversial, we have to play the game - Mumbrella Asia". Mumbrella Asia. 10 July 2013.
  8. "Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression in Singapore: Myth or Reality?".
  9. Hoyt, Clark (3 April 2010). "Opinion | Censored in Singapore". The New York Times.
  10. "Impotence is a four-letter word in Singapore's media". South China Morning Post. 31 October 2016.
  11. "2 foreign Christian preachers barred from speaking in Singapore for anti-Islam, anti-Buddhist comments". Channel NewsAsia.
  12. "What's so funny about racial stereotypes?". The Straits Times. 2 July 2017.
  13. Jaswal, Balli Kaur (21 May 2017). "The Censors' Disappearing Vibrator". The New York Times.
  14. Hickey, Shane (12 July 2014). "Singapore libraries to destroy copies of gay penguin book". The Guardian.
  15. "Same-sex kiss cut from Les Miserables". BBC News. 13 June 2016.
  16. Gomez, James (2000). Self-Censorship: Singapore's Shame. Think Centre. ISBN 981-04-1739-X.
  17. Gibson, William (September–October 1993). "Disneyland with the Death Penalty". Wired. Vol. 1, no. 4. Condé Nast. Retrieved 23 September 2008.
  18. "2018 World Press Freedom Index | Reporters Without Borders". RSF. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  19. "Seminar_The Influence of Political Cynicism_140911". 29 December 2011. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011.
  20. "Singapore country profile". London: BBC. 2 April 2011.
  21. " "Newspaper and Printing Presses Act".
  22. "Journalists Frustrated by Press Controls". 16 January 2009 via WikiLeaks PlusD.
  23. "Asia Sentinel - WikiLeaks' Asian Field Day". Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  24. "Why did SPH restructure? Umbrage, COVID-19 and SGAG". Singapore Samizdat. 27 May 2021. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
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