Does Us Media Threaten Singapore's Identity

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In a country that encompasses a good mix of East and West such as Singapore, it is undeniable that US media is prevalent. As more television shows, radio programs, movies, news channels, internet websites and magazines are being produced in the United States, the same soaring amount of products are being introduced to this society. Despite this, however strong the influence of American media, the values and traditions of this country are twice as powerful. Although US media does arguably affect and influence the general public to a certain extent, it does not threaten Singapore's national identity.

Recognizing the fact that even though there are positive aspects of importing US media into Singapore, there is also a responsibility in ensuring the stability of and reinforcing the nation's values and principles. The government understands the importance in keeping one's nation's culture, and in an effort to enhance the country's cultural heritage, a set of values was introduced in 1988 by then Deputy Minister Mr. Goh Chok Tong. Aptly named "5 Shared Values," it covers principles such as, "Nation before community and society before self, Family as the basic unit of society, Community support and respect for the individual, Consensus, not conflict and Racial and religious harmony" (Association for Asian Research 2003). As the sphere of US media seem to expand in Singapore, the general public still adhere to these values that set them apart from the rest of the nations. Some might argue that the large flow of US media into Singapore is a great example of cultural imperialism, and others might beg to differ. Different theorists and scholars have provided their own interpretation of the term cultural imperialism, and depending on the writer, the term could have positive and negative meanings. As suggested by Herbert Schiller, "Cultural imperialism proposes that a society is brought into the modern world system when its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping its social constitutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the [Western power]" (Schiller 1976). Another writer suggests that cultural imperialism involves influencing the country's values, educational system, and government system through a way that goes beyond "economic exploitation or military force" – the media (Downing, Mohammadi & Sreberny-Mohammadi 1995). Whichever definition one agrees on, one has to keep in mind that as cultural imperialism suggests either a forced or voluntary cultivation of the Western culture, the idea does not entirely apply to the possible notion that the wave of US media flow is a threat to the national identity of Singapore. Although Singapore voluntarily embraces Western media, it by no means proves that importing US media is equivalent to acculturation of the American culture. As Guy Cumberbatch notes, "Some findings in the field of media effects point to viewers being singularly attracted to the mass media as a source of entertainment but stubbornly resistant to their influence" (Cumberbatch 1998, p.272). Thus, the exposure of US media merely serves as a source of entertainment rather than a tool to change this country's values. Of course, there will constantly be arguments pertaining to the media effects and the consequences of them. Through years of research, different media effects models have surfaced. Most may sound logical, but there are no definite theories and proofs that can substantiate their validity (Gauntlett 1998). One can argue that the media does have a certain amount of influence on the target audience, and there is no evidence to prove the idea to be completely wrong. However, influencing audiences on a surface level is not the same as endangering a country's set of values.

Although widely exposed to American movies, music, current events and literature, Singapore is a multi-cultural and multi-racial country that strongly adheres to the...
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