The sporting industry is a growing business around the world; and Singapore is certainly well-poised to tap on the commercial advantages, heighten sporting interest at the grassroots level, as well as to empower local athletes to sustainably achieve excellence. However, given the complementary nature of the sporting and media industries, the absence of a free-to-air sports channel in Singapore is a glaring hole in its report card. Representatives from the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) have consistently – and conveniently – pointed to the failure of the Sportscity venture between 2000 and 2002; nonetheless, they have not specifically delved into the reasons for its less-than-enthusiastic reception. Furthermore, times have changed; there is definitely a more proliferated demand and interest in sports than before.
Benefits from a free-to-air sports channel are aplenty. First, airing a plethora of sporting shows and competitions can greatly increase interest respectively, and fundamentally foster a sporting culture. Correspondingly, it lowers the barriers-to-entry for individuals who are interested in watching these sporting competitions, but find paid channels too expensive or unaffordable. Higher awareness levels – as Singaporeans watch tennis grand slams, basketball championships or play-offs et cetera – can translate into higher participation rates, as they become more intrigued to give the sports a shot.
Currently, free-to-air channels do screen major sporting events – often related to Singapore – such as the Singapore Grand Prix, the FIFA World Cup Finals, the Olympic Games, regional sporting meets, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, they are too sporadic and irregular to sustainably maintain interests and passions; an annual or once-every-four-years broadcast is simply not sufficient.
The primary contention levelled against the aforementioned proposal seems to be premised upon financial considerations; essentially, that broadcasting fees are expensive, and that there is no guarantee for sustained viewership to lure advertisers. But if the monetary investment yields favourable results, then why not? With the dedicated manpower and resources, effort can be put into the structuring of the television programmes, promoting the diverse sports and games marketed, and getting stakeholders involved in the brainstorming and development processes.
Beyond international sports, the lacklustre efforts to promote our Singapore sports, athletes and performances are lamentable; had it not been for one-off events such as the Asian Youth Games (AYG) and the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), awareness about the Singapore sporting scene would have been virtually non-existent. Television programmes highlighting inter-school competitions, snippets or highlight reels would be great starting points; yet moving forward – be it in terms of cooperating with existing partners or instituting brand-new platforms – traditional media outreaches would have to be coupled by new media approaches as well. Otherwise, why bother?
A version of this article was published in My Paper.