In 2003, the Media Development Authority (MDA) in Singapore launched the “Media21” strategy – a comprehensive strategy to turn Singapore into a ‘global media city’ and make it the major hub for media and digital content in Asia.

Three years on, the industry appears to have grown according to MDA CEO Christopher Chia. In an interview with TV Asia Pacific in October, Chia reported that an estimated 1,000 jobs had been added in 2005 alone (no source for the stats) and a number of collaborative productions had been announced.

The focus of the MDA’s efforts appears to be on transforming Singapore’s (digital) content industry from one that primarily serves the domestic market with any international sales being projects done on consignment, to an industry that is not only fully internationalised but one that produces ‘made-by-Singapore’ content. Ultimately, this means content that is clearly distinguishable as Singaporean, and content that local companies hold copyrights for (as opposed to undertaking work that has been outsourced by foreign companies).

As Chia explains, the MDA encourage the development of ‘high-quality and exportable made-in-Singapore’ content across various genres through several development schemes and facilitate co-productions between local media companies and international partners. Considerable effort appears to have been made to boosting the digital-cinema and HDTV distribution technologies.

But finance-based development schemes, the sustainability of the industry’s capacity to produce compelling local (yet exportable) content also depends on the broader economic and institutional settings that not only facilitate business transactions but also develop the creativity of workers in the industry. A government’s approach to education, combined with its political institutions, can have a significant impact on a nation’s ability to create content and a culture that appeals both to the domestic market and also to international audiences.