English is used extensively in the Singapore media, both print and broadcast, alongside the major local languages: Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil Indian. All Singapore media are constrained in their reporting and take their cue from the People's Action Party Government. International media aren't exempt: the government intermittently bans, sues, or restricts the circulation of foreign publications or journalists when they're considered to have overstepped the mark.
Singapore practices official censorship. Certain books and magazines can't be sold; it may be a blanket ban or simply a prevention of a particular issue criticizing the government. Movies are routinely edited to remove sexual references—it took more than eight years for Sex and the City to be broadcast in Singapore. Non-offending international newspapers and magazines are generally available in larger hotels or the roadside magazine stands on the corner of Lor Lippit and Holland Avenue in Holland Village.
Since English is the lingua franca, all regular bookstores carry English-language books. Borders at Wheelock Place, Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City (Takashimaya), and Times the Bookshop at Centrepoint are all good bets.
Borders. #01-00 Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Rd., Orchard. 6235-7146.
Kinokuniya. #03-09/10/15 Ngee Ann City (in Takashimaya), 391 Orchard Rd., Orchard. 6737-5021. www.kinokuniya.com.sg.
Times the Bookshop. #04-08/16 Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Rd., Orchard. 6734-9022.
Newspapers & Magazines
There are several local English-language newspapers. The leading English-language "paper of record" is the daily Straits Times. Read this to get a better understanding of the government's current priorities and pending policy announcements. The letters to the editor section provides great insight into some of the alternative views held by locals. The Business Times daily is a serious business newspaper pitching a bit higher than the Straits Times, while The New Paper afternoon tabloid is Singapore's punchiest and most populist paper. Streates is a weekday commuter freebie.
For international news with coherent regional and local coverage, seek out the International Herald Tribune, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times (of London), and the Far Eastern Economic Review. The Economist weekly covers Asian and international affairs fairly well. The weekly 8 Days and fortnightly IS magazine are useful guides to events in Singapore; the latter is available for free from various dining, retail, and entertainment outlets.
Radio & Television
Singapore's television and radio services are broadcast in multiple languages. In recent years there has been a commendable focus on producing locally generated drama, sitcoms, comedy, and current affairs documentaries. Serious news and features, however, are still passed through a careful socio-political filter. Channel NewsAsia, a local channel, broadcasts Singaporean and Asian current affairs and business news. There's also the Media Corporation of Singapore's Channel 5 (mostly English content with some Mandarin), Channel 8 (predominantly Mandarin), Suria (Malay programs), and Central (children's programs). It's illegal for private homes to have satellite dishes, but hotels are exempt from this.
English-language radio stations are dominated by light and easy-listening music, such as Class 95 FM and Gold 90.5 FM. Even the self-professed hard-rock stations, Power 98 FM and 98.7 FM Perfect 10, are relatively middle of the road. Symphony 92.4 FM broadcasts classical music. Talk radio is a great gauge of local opinions and priorities; tune into News Radio 93.8 FM for great banter. Some of the topics of discussion may seem tame compared to what you're used to back home, but the responses can be fascinating. All of these stations broadcast hourly news bulletins; the BBC World Service on 88.9 FM broadcasts uncensored news.
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