Singapore still lacks a functioning public sphere, says researcher



January 13th, 2010

As long as the government does not get into the act, the mainstream media in Singapore seems to be able to able to fulfill to a large extent the standard theoretical functions of media – to bring the news to the people, provide space for commentary, reflection and deliberation. This was the gist of Institute of Policy Studies research fellow Tan Tarn How’s presentation at The Online Citizen’s special 2009 Year in Review event held at the Post Museum two weeks ago.

Tan had written a research paper assessing the local mainstream media’s coverage of the AWARE saga last year. He was invited by the organisers to speak on the topic “Debate and its nature in a non-public sphere”.

In his presentation, Tan commented that the AWARE saga pointed out the fact that there was an unformed public sphere in Singapore – “a space where people can come together to talk about issues which are relevant to them in order to have an influence on government policy”. With mainstream media having to operate under constraints, he said it is yet to be seen if the new media can take up the mantle of being the public sphere, given that they too have to grapple with larger societal issues.

In reply to a comment by an audience member who claimed that the local mainstream media lacked credibility in light of government regulation, Tan stated that there was empirical evidence to show that Singaporeans continue to regard the mainstream media as their most credible source of news. “There is no correlation between press freedom and press credibility in the world at all”, he said.

Click here to read more about 2009 Year In Review, an event jointly organised by The Online Citizen and Talk Politics.

View Tan Tarn How’s complete presentation and response to questions from the audience in the videos below.



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