Two very important things turned 50 in 2013: BBC’s Doctor Who and television in MediaCorp. The TV specials for both of these events garnered the viewership of a small country. However, only one of them drew a ton of flak.
Alright, fine, Steven Moffat’s writing for Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary incited some resentment amongst fans, but that is another story for another time. I’m talking about MediaCorp’s Celebrate TV50. The New Year’s countdown cum trip down memory lane drew an awful lot of bad publicity, namely, for how it seemed largely targeted only towards the English and Mandarin-speaking demographics of Singapore.
What put everyone’s thoughts into words was the Facebook post made by artistic director of Wild Rice, Ivan Heng, which went viral after the event.
His snarky post deemed the event too “cheena”, saying there is a distinct lack of “Malays, Indians, Eurasians, Peranakans and not to mention the dozens of other races and nationalities who today call Singapore their country and home”. My favourite part was “I’m not coming home to 5. Because it’s not home.” Brilliant. Props to Mr Heng for coming up with that, I wish I’d come up with it first.
I did agree with the post at first. The event did seem too Chinese-centric. I mean, besides rocking out to The Wanted, we were rocking out to Wang Leehom. Sort of. Plus, countless other MediaCorp artistes performed and spoke in, you guessed it, Mandarin. Not to mention, that cringe-inducing London Choco Roll advertisement. (Seriously, how did that get green-lit?) As a TV special celebrating something from a media broadcaster based in multi-racial Singapore, we expected something a little more… well, multi-racial.
That was until I spoke to a couple more people about the event. You see, Singapore is multi-racial to the point where we cannot possibly cater to every single race in the country in a single event like Celebrate TV50. We’ve not only got Malays, Indians and Eurasians to cater to, we’ve got Filipinos, Indonesians, Europeans and so on, as well.
Look, I am sick of minority groups not getting the representation they deserve on mainstream channels. I am just as enraged as you are and I completely understand where you are coming from. However, Celebrate TV50 is a measly five-hour event. You cannot expect every minority group to be represented in a short span of five hours. Let’s think of things a little practically, shall we?
What I implore MediaCorp to do is to give minority groups more airtime in regular, mainstream TV programming. I want to watch a local TV series with a single Indian dad, a European lesbian and a Filipino gigolo. Yes, it sounds vaguely like the plot of an adult film. I just realised. No matter, what I’m trying to get at is that we need representation. Watching the same thing on TV is painfully boring. That is why I applauded MediaCorp for coming up with Mata-Mata, a series about policewomen from different backgrounds.
This is what I’m talking about, MediaCorp. You guys didn’t screw up with Celebrate TV50, you guys screwed up with regular programming, and that’s why people are getting upset. I suppose it had to come to a huge event like Celebrate TV50 to finally draw some attention to the lack of representation, but I am glad it finally did. This has been a problem for a long time, I can only hope something will be done soon.
Celebrate TV50 did its job, which was to celebrate 50 years of television in MediaCorp. I would have loved to see more representation, but it wasn’t practical. Celebrate TV50 was not the right platform for that, regular programming is. In the end, Mr Heng had a very valid point; it just applied to a much larger picture. Truly, I look forward to when I can come home to a well-represented, racially diverse 5.