The media of Singapore play an important role in Singapore, one of the key strategic media centres in the Asia-Pacific region. This is in line with the government's aggressive push to establish Singapore as a media hub in the world under the Media 21 plan launched in 2002.
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.
The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts 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.
In 2015, Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 153 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index, making it the worst country among other developed economies based on the Human Development Index.
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. William Gibson's Disneyland with the Death Penalty described Singapore's newspapers as "essentially organs of the state", while political scientist and opposition politician James Gomez has studied the role of self-censorship in restricting expression in Singapore.
In 2011, 56% of 1092 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".
State-owned MediaCorp owns and operates all seven free-to-air terrestrial local television channels licensed to broadcast in Singapore, as well as 14 radio channels. Radio and television stations are all government-owned entities. The radio stations are mainly operated by MediaCorp with the exception of four stations, which are operated by SAFRA Radio (a part of the Singapore Armed Forces) and SPH UnionWorks. 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 FM.
Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is forbidden.
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.
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. 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", and that the number of management shares must equal at least 1% of ordinary shares. 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 Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), 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. A United States diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks 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".
As of 2008, there are 16 newspapers in active circulation. Daily newspapers are published in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
There are restrictions on importing foreign newspapers to Singapore, especially for politically sensitive publications. Also, under a reciprocal agreement, Malaysia's New Straits Times newspaper may not be sold in Singapore, and Singapore's Straits Times may not be sold in Malaysia.