Monday, December 30, 2013

50 Years of Television - The Exhibition

If you live in Singapore, I'm pretty sure you have watched free-to-air channels on TV like Channel 5, Channel 8, Suria and much much more, right? Well did you know that TV started in Singapore in 1963 on the month of February? Before Mediacorp (the provider for all the local free-to-air channels) started, the company was known as Singapore Broadcasting Company or SBC for short. In 2013, Mediacorp celebrates 50 years of television and to commemorate this special occasion, an exhibition was held at the National Museum that talks about the history of television in Singapore. Let me give you a small virtual tour of the exhibition in case you have missed it.

What is TV50 All About?

Starting from 15 February 2013, Mediacorp celebrates 50 Years of Television also known as TV50. Every free-to-air Mediacorp channel will do something to commemorate TV50. Some TV channels will rebroadcast old shows from the past, some will show small clips about the brief history of television along with a museum exhibition related to TV50. In November, the National Museum held several carnivals during the weekends to give visitors a chance to interact with their favourite Mediacorp celebrities and checked out a wide variety of TV related events. On the very last day of the year, on the 31st, a countdown party with Mediacorp stars and other celebrities will be held at the Marina Bay Floating Platform to commemorate TV50 and the 2014 New Year.

Clothes Being Used in Mediacorp Shows

When you first step in to the exhibition, a showcase of some of the clothes being used on Mediacorp shows were being displayed. Of course, to make the shows a reality, you need props and clothes. An example includes this piece of clothing that's pictured on the right which is what Samsui women wore back in the day. Some other props were featured in the gallery as well.

Before Mediacorp was actually named Mediacorp, it was known as TCS (Television Corporation of Singapore) and SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation)? Not only that, the first free-to-air channel in Singapore was called Television Singapura? More on these will be featured later on.

Some Benches For You to Rest On

If anytime a visitor feels tired when walking around the exhibition, they can rest at any of these benches. Why am I highlighting some wooden benches? Well the reason why is because of these white-coloured boards hidden beneath the benches. These boards were actually information boards that contained some fun facts about the history of Singapore television that you might not know. They were even equipped with old black and white photos to accompany the facts and for nostalgia purposes.

The Famous Liang Po Po and Phua Chu Kang

Some of you may recognise who these two famous characters are. They are the pioneers of Singapore TV comedies. The one on the left is Phua Chu Kang. He is a contractor who is well known for his comedy TV show, Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd and well known for his signature yellow boots, his quote of saying his company being famous in Singapore, JB (Johor Bahru) and some say Batam along with his papier mache mole. He was portrayed by local funnyman Gurmit Singh.

The one on the right is of course the legendary Liang Po Po who was famous in this local movie, Liang Po Po: The Movie. This character was famously portrayed by Jack Neo, a local funnyman and filmmaker whose works include Just Follow Law, Money No Enough and the recently played Ah Boys To Men. And yes, Jack Neo is indeed a male who plays a female character. Unfortunately, both characters can no longer be found on TV anymore but for those of us who remember these two legendary characters, they will always be in our hearts.

Old Televisions and Equipment On Display

Of course, old televisions and other production equipment were also on display as well. Otherwise, how can a television show be shown back in the 1960s? This television is one of the many sold back in the day when television first started in Singapore. In fact, when the first TV broadcast was shown in Singapore, it was located at the Victoria Theatre and Memorial Hall. Thousands of people gathered to watch the inauguration and some of them even spilled over to the Queen Elizabeth Walk (currently the Esplanade Park) just to watch the first broadcast.

The television featured here is the Zenith Space Command. It's one of the first TVs to be sold in Singapore and it's also the pioneer for wireless TV remote controls. Those who were able to afford TV back in the 60s mainly bought this particular model. Those who can't afford TV could just head to the nearest Community Centre or Community Club and watch TV for free. And by watching TV, I mean a small TV (like the one pictured) being shown to a few hundred people sitting down on chairs or standing up like at a cinema or a concert.

Old Production Equipment Being Displayed

How can a TV show exist without a camera? That's what the next part of the exhibition was all about. Back in the olden days, this was the kind of cameras being used to record TV shows, movies, live shows and so much more by the predecessors of Mediacorp. If you are more into production equipment and professional grade cameras, this part of the gallery is definitely for you. Not only that, old-school mini televisions and smaller cameras were also being shown right here at this part of the gallery.

Some fun facts about television can also be seen right behind the production equipment displays as well. Some of them include statistics about how many people watched the first Singapore Idol, a local singing talent competition that started in 2003 along with statistics about how many people are watching TV today as compared to the past.

New and Old Logos of Singapore Television

Mediacorp did not start off as Mediacorp back when television was launched in Singapore in 1963. In fact, the name was actually first known as TV Malaysia Singapura but ever since Singapore became independent and no longer a part of Malaysia, it was renamed as TV Singapura with a slightly modified logo. Of course, TV Singapura then changed to Radio Television Singapore (or Radio Television Singapura) as it focused on not only TV but radio as well. It then transformed to SBC or Singapore Broadcasting Corporation for short and then TCS or Television Corporation of Singapore followed by the current iteration, Mediacorp.

Public TV has come a long way in Singapore. The gallery also talked about cable TV as well. SCV also known as Singapore Cable Vision, was the first Cable TV provider in Singapore. With cable TV, more channels were available and it gives subscribers more choices apart from the standard free-to-air channels for an extra monthly fee. Back in around 2003, SCV was bought over by Starhub to become Starhub TV. Mio TV started back in around 2007 as the main competitor to Starhub's cable TV offerings.

A Showcase of Past TV Shows and Projector Tables

At the next part of the gallery, a flat screen television was set up to showcase the television shows produced by Mediacorp. The TV shows shown in the flat screen had a certain theme which was about family. A lot of TV shows from each free-to-air channel focused more on family and family values. Examples include Growing Up, Phua Chu Kang, Under One Roof and non-English ones as well like Tetangga (Malay), Jeritan Sepi (Malay) and Don't Worry Be Happy (Chinese). Can you recall the shows and the characters from the shows that I have mentioned?

There were even some tables which show old TV shows and other videos as well like the first few episodes of Crimewatch and a fun remixed music video of Yam Ah Mee, the famous person who announced Singapore's election results in May 2011 and the former chief executive of People's Association. To many of us, being in this room makes us feel very nostalgic as it reminds us of the good old days of TV and that TV is continuing to evolve.

Magazines, magazines and magazines

The TV50 exhibition not only talks about the history of Singapore television but also the history of the local media company, Mediacorp, as well. Right over at this wall, Mediacorp magazines of all sorts of languages were featured here. There was 8 Days magazine, an English language magazine which focused more on pop culture, movies and TV shows. Apart from that, there was also Manja, a Malay language magazine similar to 8 Days and I Weekly, a Chinese language magazine that's also similar to 8 Days. All these magazines have been a hit among the local community and they are still enjoyed by many Singaporeans right now. Not only that, most of them are affordable as well at under $5 a copy. Basically, these magazines are like the print version of the free-to-air Mediacorp channels.

Controversies of Singapore TV and Writing Down Memories

Singapore television also has its fair share of criticisms and controversies as highlighted in the exhibition itself. One such criticism includes the use of dialects in television. Back in the olden days, the Chinese community in Singapore mainly spoke in different dialects including Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew and so much more. The government wanted the people to speak in one Chinese language namely Mandarin in which they then launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign. This resulted in Chinese TV shows being spoken mainly in Mandarin.

Apart from that, the comedy shows, Under One Roof and Phua Chu Kang were under fire from the government for using Singlish (a local variety of the English language which mixes Chinese, Malay and Indian languages into one) which is also the language that we Singaporeans commonly use. These are some of the controversies that landed in Singapore television which goes to show that not everything is perfect.

If you have lived in Singapore for quite a long period of time and maybe have some nostalgic memories related to Singapore TV, this is the gallery for you. At this part of the exhibition, there were touchscreen displays that allowed you to record down whatever memories of Singapore television you have to the Singapore Memory Project (or SMP for short) so that people in the future will be able to check out your memories. You can also do the same thing by writing it down on a postcard. After you have wrote it down, just staple it to this wall and that's it! You can now not only show off your memories here but you can also check out other people's memories of Singapore television as well.

The Okto Corner

After checking out the gallery, it was time for me to head to other parts of the National Museum and see more TV50 galleries. Right over here, near the escalators, there was the Okto corner. Okay, it wasn't really called the Okto corner, I just called it that because it's in the theme of Okto, the free-to-air channel targeted towards kids and art fanatics. Right over here, you can make an origami flower using the coloured paper that's provided and paste it on the wall to create Ollie's (the name of the Okto mascot) Garden. Apart from that, there was also a so-called "lounge" featuring a TV screen that shows videos related to the TV channel and the TV channel's mascot, Ollie.

The Wall of Fame

If you go up the escalators, you will be presented with the Wall of Fame. The Wall of Fame contained a collage of all the Mediacorp stars, past and present, in their famous roles. The Wall featured plenty of short write ups about the Mediacorp stars along with some television screens showing some of the famous stars including the very humourous Gurmit Singh as Phua Chu Kang talking to you as if he knows you personally. There was also this cool little camera and a bench. If you sit on that particular bench, you may be captured live on camera and be a part of the collage of stars like the lady pictured above.

Behind The Scenes

Most shows make use of Computer Generated Imagery or CGI to add special effects. Not only that, to make sure that the actor playing the character has blood or bruises, the makeup artist will do its job to ensure that will happen. Right behind the Wall of Fame, pictures about the making of a new Channel 8 Chinese drama were featured here. It shows all the things that the production crew has to do make the show a flawless and perfect one.

There was also a TV screen showing how they implemented CGI into the show. One amazing part in the video was when they transformed a current 2013 temple in Telok Ayer Street in modern Singapore into something that can only be seen in the olden days. It's just cool to see something modern being transformed to something old using the power of CGI. Apart from that, there was also a display showcase showing the types of make up, liquids and other instruments to create artificial blood and bruises.

A Touchscreen Panel and Weekend Carnivals

Near the Wall of Fame, a touchscreen table featuring old sorts of shows Mediacorp has to offer was on display. Right over here, you can scroll through all the different genres of shows like news, comedies, dramas, variety shows and so much more. If you were not too keen on reading this, there was even a voiceover guy that talks about the shows that you have selected so you can just listen to them. The evolution and the history of Singapore television were also featured right here on this touchscreen panel. I still think that the actual exhibitions were more interesting as you could get a more up close and personal look at the history of TV. Still, this touchscreen panel may be useful to some of you and it's more interactive and fun to use.

At certain weekends in between late November and late December, carnivals were held outside and inside the National Museum in celebration of TV50. Lots of fun events and Mediacorp celebrities can be found during the weekend carnivals for everyone to enjoy. Some fun events include a live singing competition, movie screenings, cooking shows, performances by celebrities, a chance for you to be a Channel NewsAsia reporter and so much more. It's too bad that I didn't get to actually attend any of the weekend carnivals but I think visiting the exhibition is already good enough for me anyway.


In conclusion, the 50 Years of Television exhibition also known as the TV50 exhibition was an awesome and free museum exhibition that talked about all things related to Singapore television. It can also be treated as a walk down memory lane for those of you who have grown up watching Mediacorp shows. Otherwise, the exhibition was a great way to know more about the makings of Mediacorp shows and movies thanks to the fun and interactive galleries at the exhibition.

Unfortunately, by the time you are reading this, the whole exhibition would probably be gone by now. If you want to, there's one more TV50 celebration on New Year's Eve which is the Celebrate TV50 Countdown show featuring British pop boyband The Wanted and Taiwanese singer Wang Lee Hom. The show will be featured on Channel 5 and broadcasted live from the Marina Bay Floating Platform. Also, since the year is going to end, I would like to wish you and all my readers a very Happy New Year!

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