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Singapore watchdog growls at violent ‘Files’

B'casting authority says more competish lowered standards

SINGAPORE — MediaCorp’s gory new crime series “True Files” is drawing huge auds, despite complaints from the broadcast watchdog that webs are sacrificing content in favor of sensational fare to up ratings.

The debut of the English-lingo true crime drama grabbed almost half a million viewers last month, even though the advertised episode — featuring ritual killings by murderer Adrian Lim — was pulled after the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) objected to the violence.

It was replaced with an episode about the 1971 murder of a gold merchant and his two employees. MediaCorp agreed to air the Lim seg at a later time.

The SBA blames increased competition for lowering standards in a recently published report. May 2001 saw the bow of SPH MediaWorks’ Channels U (Chinese) and i (English), competing against incumbents Channels 8 & 5 respectively.

SBA’s Program Advisory Committee (PAC) comments: “Greater competition did not lead to significant improvements in entertainment programs last year. In the bid to achieve high ratings, broadcasters appealed to the lowest denominator which led to a general decline in the quality and range of entertainment programs.”

Too sexy

Singling out reality-fare and advertising for particular criticism, PAC continues: “There were more concerns raised by the public, with the bulk of feedback pertaining to sexual content/suggestiveness, social norms/lifestyles and violence.

“PAC views this trend as undesirable and felt that broadcasters should strive for programming which does not compromise program standards.”

But if ratings for shows like “True Files” are anything to go by, viewers obviously don’t agree.

In a market dominated by Chinese-lingo TV, which has a 75% share of viewership, the 465,000-strong aud (12 ratings points, or 28.7% share of the entire market) for an English-lingo drama is good going.

Selena Ho, MediaCorp TV senior assistant VP of network programming, is very pleased with “True Files.”

“The series was intended to educate viewers to safeguard themselves and their families against suspicious characters, and reinforce the fact that Singapore’s low crime rate is not to be taken for granted,” she says.

“The good start shows that we are on the right track, and that there is keen interest in famous criminal cases that Singapore has seen over the years.”