The government did not normally censor the press, but it owned the radio and television stations and closely supervised the newspapers. Under the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act (NPPA), passed in 1974 and amended in 1986, the government could restrict-- without actually banning--the circulation of any publication sold in the country, including foreign periodicals, that it deemed guilty of distorted reporting. These laws provided the legal justification for restrictions placed on the circulation of such foreign publications as the Asian Wall Street Journal and Time magazine's Asian edition in 1987. The government also restricted the circulation of Far Eastern Economic Review and Asiaweek in 1987 for "engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore."
Singapore had seven daily newspapers at the end of 1987: two in English, The Straits Times and The Business Times; three in Chinese, Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily News, and Lianhe Zaobao; one in Malay, Berita Harian; and one in Tamil, Tamil Murasu. With the exception of the Tamil Murasu, all were published by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, a group that comprised Singapore News and Publications Ltd, the Straits Times Press Ltd, and the Times Publishing Company. Daily newspaper circulation in 1988 totaled 743,334 copies, with Chinese language newspapers accounting for the highest number (354,840), followed by English (340,401) and Malay (42,458) newspapers.
The Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) operated five radio channels and three television channels. Established in 1980, it provided programming in Singapore's four official languages-- Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English--and was supported by revenue from radio and television licensing fees and commercial advertising. Each of four of the five radio stations broadcast in one of the four official languages, while the fifth alternated between English and Mandarin. The television stations, which provided a total of about 163 hours of programming a week, also broadcast in separate languages. Channel Five's programming was in Malay and English, Channel Eight's in Mandarin and Tamil, and Channel Twelve's in English. In many cases, programs also were subtitled in several languages.
By 1989 Singapore's leadership had been in place for three decades, during which it guided an extraordinarily successful program of economic development and physical rebuilding. In the 1990s, a new generation of leaders would take over, and the debate over the need to change the political system that had been so successful in the past would grow. Some elements of an increasingly prosperous and well-educated population, who took Singapore's national viability and survival for granted, questioned the elderly leaders' assertions that a host of pressing dangers justified their authoritarian and paternalistic style of governance. To the leaders, however, the country's prosperity and their continued electoral victories demonstrated the correctness of their policies and methods of rule. They envisioned a new generation of leaders who would continue the proven practices established by the country's founding fathers. The inherent tensions between generations and between the advocates of change and those of continuity were likely to mark the politics of the 1990s.
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