CSJ asks for SDP v PAP debate on Talking Point

March 3, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Han Chuan Quee
Vice President, Corporate Services
Channel NewsAsia

Dear Madam,

Thank you for your reply. Your letter said almost everything except answer my question of why the SDP was left out of the Talking Point episode that was aired last Sunday evening.

You write that the “SDP’s views on the changes to the electoral boundaries were reported by MediaCorp”, that the episode in question was “prompted by the announcement of changes in electoral boundaries”, that the programme was “meant to be a more qualitative discussion” and so on.

What has all this to do with the SDP being left out of the programme?

You also say that there has been no other single programme which featured the RP, WP, and NSP in one show but “there were different episodes of Talking Point which featured the different parties separately and on different topics.” Was the SDP ever invited to any of these?

The Talking Point programme has been airing for years. During that time, the SDP has never been invited to be on it. Other parties have – repeatedly. And you expect people to believe that there is no discrimination against us?

Just because you say that there is no attempt to discriminate against the SDP doesn’t make it true. You need to demonstrate it.

To this end I have a proposal: Talking Point can do an episode where the PAP is invited to present its Budget and the SDP its Shadow Budget with both sides having an intelligent and robust debate on the matter.

The SDP, you may know, is the only opposition party to publish an alternative to Budget 2011. For that matter, we are the only party to have ever come up with a Shadow Budget in the history of Singapore. Given this, it is timely to have such an episode. I am certain that your viewers would be intensely interested to watch an SDP-PAP debate.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

Dear Dr Chee,

Thank you for writing in with your feedback. We would like to emphasize that Channel NewsAsia, which has reported on local, regional and international news developments for over a decade now, has no agenda to advance, except to carry the news and views which are relevant to our viewers.

Let me also assure you that there is no attempt to discriminate against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

In fact, the SDP’s views on the changes to the electoral boundaries were reported by MediaCorp on several of its media platforms. In case, you missed the news reports, Dr Chee, you were quoted as saying that you did not see a logical explanation in how the boundaries had been drawn and they “seem to have been carved up in a haphazard way to benefit the PAP”. Other examples of stories include the report of political parties doing their walkabouts and opposition parties planning to discuss constituency allocation.

The latest episode of Talking Point, which you referred to, was prompted by the announcement of changes in electoral boundaries on the afternoon of 24 February 11, and the program was due for recording the following morning.

Many considerations go into the conduct of such a forum, including the program duration, size of panel, turnaround time and identifying topics of relevance. For instance, one key point of discussion was how new Single-Member Constituencies would affect plans and strategies of incumbent MPs and the parties contesting. The programme was not meant to be a comprehensive report card detailing the reaction of every single political party in Singapore. At the latest count, there are at least 11 active political parties in Singapore. The approximately 40-minute programme, excluding commercial breaks, was instead meant to be a more qualitative discussion, to give viewers a flavour of the different points of view about the changes to the electoral boundaries, as seen from the Opposition camp as well as incumbents from the ruling party.

On your reference to “a previous episode” of the programme which you said had invited the NSP, WP, and RP but not the SDP, we would like to correct this misconception. There has been no other single programme which featured the mentioned Opposition parties in one show. There were different episodes of Talking Point which featured the different parties separately and on different topics.

Last weekend’s programme had received encouraging feedback from several viewers. We aim to produce programmes that add value for the viewing public, and we will continually work to improve our productions. For this reason, when we receive comments, whether constructive or otherwise, they would always be seriously considered.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Han Chuan Quee (Ms)
Vice President, Corporate Services
Channel NewsAsia
MediaCorp Pte Ltd