Broadcasting’s Contribution to Singapore’s Development –
Radio broadcast began in 1936, while Television was introduced in 1963 in Singapore. At the launch of TV, then Minister of Culture, Mr. S Rajaratnam said that the new service “…might well mark the start of a social and cultural revolution in our lives.”
The broadcast media’s contributions towards Singapore’s development were significant and numerous . It helped instil amongst Singaporeans a sense of belonging to the country, pride in its achievements, greater social cohesion and a deeper understanding of political, economic and social issues through its programme content. Working with various government ministries, Radio and Television Singapore (RTS) helped spearhead many public service campaigns. While laws and regulations strengthened compliance with campaign objectives, RTS’ softer persuasive approach generated public acceptance and co-operation . The ‘Clean and Green’ campaign was one of the most successful campaigns promoted by RTS.
Realising The ‘Garden City’ Dream - 1968 and 1969 were the years of rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in Singapore. The government had declared its objective to improve the quality of the urban environment and the transformation of Singapore into a garden city. Radio Television Singapore (RTS) supported this objective by producing several radio and television programmes to create and maintain a Clean and Green Singapore .
The ‘Garden City’ vision gained further momentum in 1970, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew urged RTS to stimulate greater public interest in a Green Singapore. RTS achieved this objective through a variety of content including the use of more floral props in studio sets.
Fortnightly news magazine programmes such as ‘War against Eyesores’ and ‘Greener Singapore’ with tips on environmental improvements were produced . Interlude films and slides highlighting beautiful flower beds and landscaped gardens, telecast repeatedly between TV programmes, generated public excitement in the greening of Singapore .
Gotong Royong (Community Effort) In The Clean And Green Campaign-
The regular radio and TV publicity given to large community efforts to keep Singapore Clean and Green created awareness of the campaign. It helped instil a sense of national commitment as many people from all backgrounds were seen on TV, being involved in the Cleaning and Greening of Singapore.
One mass community effort was ‘Operation Broomstick’, a clean-up event launched by the Bukit Ho Swee Citizens’ Consultative Committee on 1 November 1970 . Another was the clean-up of Sungei Pang Sua on 3 October 1971. SAFTI national service men, community residents and leaders, PUB (Public Utilities Board) and PWD (Public Works Department) officers pitched in .
RTS news coverage of these mass community efforts further generated participation and commitment to the Clean and Green Campaign.
Tree Planting Day, A Key Event in RTS’ Yearly Work Calendar -
The public were motivated to support the Garden City vision as they heard and watched RTS news footages of Singapore leaders personally involved in the planting of trees. As early as the 1960s, PM Lee Kuan Yew and his ministers took the lead in planting trees along roads and public sites. From 1971, the event was held every first week of November.
The planting of trees at various community centres, schools, parks and public areas on the annual Tree Planting Day was well publicised by RTS. Apart from publicity in the news, radio and TV talks covering useful topics like pest control, disease prevention and tree pruning were produced .
The Making Of A ‘Clean And Mosquito-free’ Singapore -
The second campaign to ‘Keep Singapore Clean’ in 1969 took on a specific emphasis – making Singapore ‘mosquito-free’.
RTS worked closely with the Ministry of Health to promote this campaign. It provided airtime for Radio announcements and TV slides to educate the public on how they could prevent the breeding of mosquitoes in their homes, gardens and offices.
Various types of programmes conveyed the campaign message. They included an episode entitled ‘War on Mosquitoes’ in the TV series ‘It’s Happening in Singapore’ , talks, forums, magazine programmes targeted at women, youth and children, documentaries, humorous sketches, features and quizzes within variety entertainment shows like ‘The Rado Show’, ‘Pesta Pop’ and ‘Chinese Variety Show’ .
Living Healthily, Clean and Pollution-free -
The campaign to ‘Keep Singapore Clean and Pollution-free’ saw a push for the whole environment to be healthier and pollution-free. Mr Ong Pang Boon, then Minister of Education, had said at a Seminar on 11 July 1970 - “All our efforts to make Singapore cleaner and greener will be of no avail if the very air we breathe is incapable of sustaining life” .
RTS provided crucial publicity to the campaign focussing on the main cause of air pollution, namely dirty exhaust smoke from vehicles and heavy construction equipment. It worked closely with the Ministries of Health and Communications in the airing of TV slides and radio announcements, which advised the public to avoid air pollution, and to be aware of fines for flouting anti-pollution laws.
RTS also produced in-depth ‘discussion’ and ‘interview’ programmes for radio and TV . Others like ‘Breakfast Bulletins’ gave focus to air pollution by interviewing local and overseas experts on the subject .
Keeping Our Water ‘Pollution-Free’ is Every Singaporean’s Responsibility-
In 1973, the government had a plan to maximise Singapore’s water resources by exploiting the abundant annual rainfall received by our island state. The rain water would be stored in new and enlarged reservoirs. One critical factor for this plan to succeed was that streams, canals and drains must be free from rotting garbage, litter, human and animal waste before the water reached the reservoirs – in short, pollution-free. It was imperative that every Singaporean should help to ensure that our rain water remained pollution-free .
To get this important message across to the public on keeping our water ‘pollution-free’, the Ministry of Environment sought the help of Radio and Television Singapore (RTS) with its mass reach. Besides news coverage on the campaign, Radio and TV constantly repeated the message to keep Singapore waters pollution-free through announcements, talks on water pollution, TV forums, a school quiz (English and Mandarin) and even a puppet show highlighting the consequences of water pollution . Locally-produced and acquired foreign documentaries on the importance of keeping water ‘pollution-free’ were also telecast .