HDB four-room flat sizes, 1996 to 2011

•May 3, 2012 • 1 Comment

Per the Straits Times, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Wednesday that Housing and Development Board flats have not shrunk in recent years, and that flat sizes have remained unchanged for the past 15 years.

According to the ST:

A four-room flat, for instance, has remained at 90 sq m since the mid-90s, HDB figures show. HDB has also said that the amount of living space per person has risen, as the number of people in an average household has dropped.

The ST reporter, Jessica Cheam, later wrote this on her Facebook page:

A few people have asked me if it’s really true that #HDB flats have not shrunk in the past 15 years. And why it doesn’t match a previous report I wrote in Nov last year on the same issue. I’ve doublechecked with HDB and both reports are right – Minister Khaw is accurate in saying the flat size hasn’t changed in the past 15 years because the mid-90s was the last time that HDB changed flat sizes.

So, more accurately – The size of a four-room flat, for example, has been 90 sq m since the mid-90s. It was 100 sq m prior to that, and 105 sq m in the 1980s, according to HDB figures. (emphasis added)

The table given to us by HDB in the Nov report used a more generic timeframe (1980s, 1990s, 2000s) to show the sizes over the decades.

So yes, HDB flat sizes have shrunk in the past 3 decades – but it has not shrunk over the past 15 years.

It isn’t clear what type of four-room flat those figures refer to (models include: A, Simplified, Improved, Standard). They also appear to be average figures.

Compare them to the following list, which includes details of some HDB four-room flats sold in the resale market this year. The data is drawn from the HDB website, and is available here.

This list is not exhaustive (there is far more data for older flats than newer ones, as expected). I’ve also tried to provide some geographical variety for each year. It starts from 1996, although Khaw’s statement apparently covers the 1997-2011 period. For comparative purposes, I’ve only included model A flats.

Note: The existing Build-to-Order system was launched in 2001 to replace the Registration-for-Flat system. RFS was phased out in 2002. This is something to bear in mind, since construction of flats sold under the BTO system would have commenced up to four years prior to the start of the lease.

In terms of the timeframe, Khaw and the HDB may also be referring not to when the flats were completed and first sold, but when the flats were first planned and built. For example, if the HDB slashed flat sizes in 1995/6 (i.e. the mid-90s), then these smaller flats may only come to market from 1998 to 2000.

UPDATE: I should also credit Yu-Mei Balasingamchow for her blogpost on five-room HDB flat sizes, which gave me the idea to create a similar list for four-room flats.

Street Name

Storey

Floor Area (sqm)/Model

Lease start date

Jurong West St 81

06 to 10

107.00 Model A

1996

Yung Loh Rd

16 to 20

106.00 Model A

1996

Clarence Lane

01 to 05

104.00 Model A

1996

Redhill Lane

01 to 05

114.00 Model A

1996

Woodlands St 83

06 to 10

106.00 Model A

1996

Strathmore Ave

01 to 05

103.00 Model A

1997

Lompang Rd

11 to 15

101.00 Model A

1997

Hougang Ave 1

01 to 05

101.00 Model A

1997

Woodlands Circle

01 to 05

103.00 Model A

1997

Lor 7 Toa Payoh

11 to 15

106.00 Model A

1998

Gangsa Rd

01 to 05

100.00 Model A

1998

Jurong West St 61

06 to 10

100.00 Model A

1998

Hougang Ave 1

01 to 05

100.00 Model A

1998

Woodlands Circle

11 to 15

103.00 Model A

1998

Senja Rd

21 to 25

99.00 Model A

1999

Choa Chu Kang Ave 3

11 to 15

101.00 Model A

1999

Hougang St 31

06 to 10

101.00 Model A

1999

Toh Guan Rd

06 to 10

100.00 Model A

1999

Rivervale St

06 to 10

101.00 Model A

1999

Rivervale Walk

11 to 15

104.00 Model A

1999

Jurong East St 21

01 to 05

103.00 Model A

2000

Woodlands Dr 16

06 to 10

91.00 Model A

2000

Pine Cl

01 to 05

95.00 Model A

2000

Compassvale Rd

11 to 15

92.00 Model A

2000

Compassvale Dr

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2001

Yung Sheng Rd

11 to 15

96.00 Model A

2001

Jurong West Ave 3

01 to 05

90.00 Model A

2001

Jurong West St 64

16 to 20

91.00 Model A

2001

Lengkok Bahru

16 to 20

90.00 Model A

2001

Anchorvale Rd

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2002

Cantonment Cl

01 to 05

75.00 Model A

2002

Choa Chu Kang Cres

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2002

Choa Chu Kang Dr

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2002

Clementi Ave 3

06 to 10

86.00 Model A

2002

Lor 2 Toa Payoh

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2002

Ang Mo Kio Ave 6

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2003

Bt Batok Ctrl

16 to 20

90.00 Model A

2003

Teban Gdns Rd

16 to 20

90.00 Model A

2003

Klang Lane

11 to 15

75.00 Model A

2003

Edgedale Plains

11 to 15

85.00 Model A

2003

Woodlands Circle

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2003

Cantonment Cl

01 to 05

75.00 Model A

2003

Rivervale Cres

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2003

Farrer Pk Rd

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2004

Bt Batok West Ave 5

11 to 15

92.00 Model A

2004

Punggol Field

06 to 10

85.00 Model A

2004

Punggol Field

11 to 15

90.00 Model A

2004

Bedok Nth Rd

06 to 10

92.00 Model A

2005

Boon Tiong Rd

01 to 05

91.00 Model A

2005

Boon Tiong Rd

11 to 15

100.00 Model A

2005

Redhill Rd

21 to 25

100.00 Model A

2005

Jln Tiga

01 to 05

93.00 Model A

2005

Strathmore Ave

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2006

Strathmore Ave

21 to 25

90.00 Model A

2006

Clementi Ave 3

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2006

Lor 2 Toa Payoh

11 to 15

91.00 Model A

2006

Lor 2 Toa Payoh

26 to 30

86.00 Model A

2006

Eunos Cres

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2007

Redhill Rd

01 to 05

100.00 Model A

2007

Jln Membina

06 to 10

90.00 Model A

2008

Tanglin Halt Rd

36 to 40

85.00 Model A

2008

Tanglin Halt Rd

36 to 40

90.00 Model A

2008

Jln Membina

26 to 30

85.00 Model A

2009

Toa Payoh Ctrl

16 to 20

76.00 Model A

2009

Toa Payoh Ctrl

16 to 20

91.00 Model A

2009

Fernvale Rd

11 to 15

96.00 Model A

2010

Sengkang West Ave

06 to 10

94.00 Model A

2011

Press muse – Boilerplate nationalism

•April 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Staying or quitting? Somehow then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong’s hypocritical comments in 2002 has endured as a dialectical signpost of Singapore’s fledging nationhood. Immigration may claim the lion’s share of headlines in an election year, but the question of emigration cuts right to the bone – do the people still believe in their national narrative?

The Straits Times on Monday (April 4) offered an answer on the front of its Home section:

‘Only 1 in 5 of Gen Y wants to emigrate’

The headline is strong, and offers a good hook for the story, which details a study by the Institute of Policy Studies. But funnily enough, you couldn’t find in the piece any newsmaker or analyst framing the referenced data with the qualifier ‘only’. It was reporter Rachel Chang (or maybe her editors) who inserted the prejudicial adverb, and in the story too (emphases mine):

Only 20 per cent want to emigrate or spend an extended period of time abroad, and more than half, the survey shows, have no intention of leaving the country.”

‘Only’? What’s with this ‘only’? I’d like to see more context for these figures before they are dismissed offhand. But Chang cares not for analysis, instead adding this operative word to spin a yarn of local youth expressing a strong sense of rootedness. In journalism speak , this is ‘editorialisation’ – defined by dictionary.com as: “to insert one’s personal opinions into an otherwise objective account“.

It gets better. Chang neither made clear in her story what she means by “no intention of leaving the country,” and nor did she provide a definitive figure. The closest she comes to doing so is as follows:

“When asked if they agree they would prefer to be a citizen of Singapore than any other country, 57.2 per cent agree.”

You’d appreciate that emigration doesn’t necessarily mean giving up citizenship – the researchers had defined it as “relocating to another country permanently or for an extended period of time” (emphasis mine). Perhaps Chang and her editors didn’t count on nosey Google search-fu exponents to track down the study’s executive summary, detailed findings and collated data, which can be read here and here.

Compare Chang’s claims to what Dr Leong Chan Hoong, who led the study, actually said in his presentation:

More than 50% of the sample had a low intention to emigrate, were strongly rooted by their social ties and were positive about the country and their prospects here. These were the Cosmopolitan and the Heartland Stayers.”

Who would have thought the Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings’ flagship English-language broadsheet, can’t tell the difference between “no” and “low”?

The poverty of Chang’s story is made even more apparent by the Today newspaper’s more nuanced report. The headline and an excerpt follows (emphases mine):

Youths’ intention to emigrate ‘not linked to threat from foreign talent

The study found four different profiles of young Singaporeans emerging with regards to emigration. Just over half, or 53.2 per cent, of the youths interviewed had a low intention to emigrate. These youths were classified as “Cosmopolitan Stayer” and “Heartland Stayer” (see box).

But about two in 10 of youths surveyed – classified as “Explorers” – are not as optimistic about their life in Singapore and feel threatened by the presence of foreign talent.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser expressed surprise at the 20-per-cent figure. He co-authored a study in 1989, which found that 15 per cent of Singaporeans then considered emigration. “The ’80s must have been the golden age of emigration, given that the popular destinations of choice were perceived as allowing access to a more affordable, quality lifestyle, which includes the material things that matter to many Singaporeans: Houses and cars,” said Associate Professor Tan. “But … the world has become far more globalised during the last two decades, perhaps the 5-per-cent increase is plausible.”

As you may well know, statistics are not always merry bedfellows with truth and truthtelling. But with a little context, insight can emerge from beneath the barely-scratched surface. Like how Today’s Leong Wee Keat compared the latest IPS findings with Assoc Prof Tan’s comments on a similar study in 1989, and found that the proportion of youth inclined to emigrate may have increased.

Now that probably should have been the real story.

Or even this: the fact that 46.7%, or ‘nearly half’ as some journalists may say, of the respondents felt disconnected with their country – those classified as the “disengaged” (26.5 per cent, who “reported weakest family bonding and sense of national pride”) and the “explorer” (20.2 per cent, who “did not feel proud of Singapore”).

But try telling Chang and her bosses. They didn’t even think the (inconvenient) findings on Singaporean youth’s national pride and sense of connection to the country (or lack thereof) deserved mention on their infographic.

Channel NewsAsia too tried to put on a brave face, but could only come up with this:

One in two young Singaporeans strongly rooted, says survey

Which kind of makes you wonder…what about the other half? But at least they aren’t as confused between “no” and “low”.

The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia might seek shelter under the discourse of developmental journalism and argue their approach serves a larger national interest. But Leong too took on the subject from a so-called pro-nation angle, but instead of framing the study with an prescriptive, even disingenuous boilerplate premise, he offered a more sobering take on the state of play and some comments on the policy challenges in fostering “rootedness”.

Clearly, there’re more journalistically sound ways to tell this story. But perhaps we expect too much. After all, we are talking about a paper that splashes their pages with half-page profiles of individual ruling party candidates (see: “new faces”) while squeezing multiple opposition candidates (see: “rookies”) into a quarter-page slot. We are talking about a news station that prematurely declared Lim Swee Say and Dr Maliki Osman as East Coast GRC MPs and not realised it for days. We are talking about senior editorial staff who have the gall to declare their borderline propagandist spiel as quality journalism.

Staying or quitting? The Straits Times has apparently made our minds up for us. So perhaps the question is better posed to their journalists who might care about their professional bona fides.

Trollmedia – what no-fly zone?

•March 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So the Guardian begins with: “French planes enter Libya to enforce no-fly zone“. Later, le Grauniad says: “Libya no-fly zone: Gaddafi’s forces and rebels are hard to tell apart from the air“. Strangely on the Graun’s live blog, we are told: “Al-Jazeera is reporting that French war planes have destroyed four Libyan tanks in air strikes to the south west of Benghazi.

Just because the official line on joint action on Libya began with talks of a no-fly zone, and that the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1973 explicitly mandates a no-fly zone, doesn’t mean that the UN member states enacting the resolution are going to enforce just a no-fly zone. At least not in the manner in which the phrase is commonly understood (from post-1991 Persian Gulf War experience).

Not that some media outlets care particularly for the fine print, it seems.

The following are the key clauses in UNSC Resolution 1973 governing military action in Libya (emphases mine):

4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

This presumably is the provision under which the UN member states concerned (effectively NATO) are acting to conduct air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces. Note that it says “all necessary measures” to “protect civilians”, and doesn’t dictate that these measures take the form of a no-fly zone. Taking out Gaddafi’s forces seen to be attacking rebel-held cities can logically be held as a “necessary measure” to “protect civilians”.

Also of note is the bit about barring “a foreign occupation force of any form”. The inclusion of the qualifier “occupation” opens the possibility of the insertion of a “transition” force – a label often used on UN military peacekeeping missions in the past. If the genuine thrust for the resolution was to bar completely any foreign ground forces from entering Libya, the qualifier “occupation” is surely superfluous, totally unnecessary.

6. Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians;

8. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights imposed by paragraph 6 above, as necessary, and requests the States concerned in cooperation with the League of Arab States to coordinate closely with the Secretary General on the measures they are taking to implement this ban, including by establishing an appropriate mechanism for implementing the provisions of paragraphs 6 and 7 above,

Again “all necessary measures”, this time to enforce the no-fly zone. And again a potential qualifier for broad action against Gaddafi’s forces – the enforcement of a no-fly zone can be hindered by ground forces providing anti-aircraft defence, and as such UN/NATO can argue it legitimate to destroy certain Libyan government units under the aegis of clause 8.

Such is the legal framework for more extensive intervention, one feels, even as cordite, copper-scented red mists linger in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anything for energy security, eh?

By the way, I also hear some pretty rough shit going down in Bahrain and Yemen…oh sorry, my bad. I forgot it’s already being taken cared of.

P.S.: If the comic still whizzes over your cuckoo’s nest, see this and this. If you jelly, I appreciate it. Took me about half an hour.

Quotable quotes – Readership ails

•March 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Singapore Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan in a parliamentary speech last week:

“In a series of articles on public housing in the TODAY newspaper last year, I explained the three key principles which underpinned our public housing programme. Incidentally, I would be compiling these articles into a booklet for wider circulation soon.”

ZING!!! For nothing reaches Singapore’s heartlanders better than a government circular.

And a follow-up for Mr Mah: why did you pitch those pieces to Today in the first place then?

Press muse – Image wrongs

•March 4, 2011 • 2 Comments

Pictures tells stories, blah…thousand words, blah…Sontag, blah…photography. You know the form. But like sense, what is thought to be common knowledge/quality really isn’t. Although you’d expect a national “newspaper of record” to know better than the rest of us.

Not on evidence of their web staff’s editorial judgement. Below are screen caps of two separate stories published on the Straits Times’ website. The first, from Feb. 23, describes local police busting online sex syndicates, while the second, from March 4, tells of Indonesian police alleged to have gang-raped a teenager.

What’s the link between the two? I’m not sure, but the Straits Times’ web editors evidently know something I don’t.

Leave aside the fact that the keyboard was clearly customised, and that its use in the first story was acceptable. Rather, ponder what a crassly insensitive goof you have to be to deem that same photo appropriate for the gang-rape story.

I ranted lamely at @stcom about this, but as of 0222 GMT on March 4, that ill-judged image choice remains. Which reminds me, @stcom does tweet rather crassly. I’ll tell you more about that next time.

P.S.: Disappointed that my first post of 2011 was on something rather inconsequential? I am too.

Press muse – Grafting numbers

•December 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Channel NewsAsia on Friday (10 December) ran a story on its website about Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer. Refreshingly, this time the story didn’t bear all good tidings, as the headline suggests:

Singapore does well in global corruption survey but…

Singapore has done relatively well in the latest annual bellwether survey on anti-corruption by global civil society organisation Transparency International but some results of the survey, which was conducted online here, raised eyebrows among those whom MediaCorp contacted.

That barometer, in TI’s words, is “a public opinion survey that assesses the general public’s perceptions and experiences of corruption and bribery” covering 86 countries and territories. It asked respondents’ opinions on how corruption in their country changed in the past three years, how effective their governments’ antigraft policies are, which institutions they trusted most to fight corruption and gauged their willingness to personally combat graft.

Respondents were also asked whether they or someone in their household had paid bribes in the past year (to which institution and why), and to rate 11 institutions on how affected they are by corruption.

A couple of its findings “raised eyebrows”, according to CNA’s story:

…when asked to assess government action against corruption, 31 per cent of the 1,000 respondents here said these actions were ineffective, 40 per cent were undecided and 29 per cent said they were effective.

Among 11 institutions picked for the poll, the media here were perceived to be the most affected by corruption.

But there’s more to the report than just two uncomfortable findings. For instance, CNA declined to mention that 38 percent of the 1,000 Singapore respondents felt corruption had increased in the last three years, compared to 33 percent who felt it stayed the same and 28 percent who felt it had decreased.

It is also worth mentioning Singapore is the only country out of the 84 states and two territories polled that rated the media as the institution most affected by corruption. Bearing in mind, that entails beating out the likes of political parties, parliament/legislature, police, business/private sector, public officials/civil servants, the judiciary, nongovernment organisations, religious bodies, the military and the education system.

On a scale of 1-5, where 1 is “not at all corrupt” and 5 is “extremely corrupt”, the media topped the lot with an average score of 3.0. Trailing in joint second, with 2.9, were political parties, business/private sector, and public officials/civil servants. Scoring best, at 2.6, were parliament/legislature and NGOs.

Not that you’d know any of this from reading the CNA story – it mentions little beyond the fact that the media polled worst. You’d only realise politicians, the civil service and businesses came in a close, ignominious second if your curiosity took your eyes to the actual survey findings.

Perhaps CNA was doing damage control, focusing on the media’s discreditable rating and deflecting attention from the state’s perceived inadequacies. Nonetheless, they were also quick to cast dispersions over the survey’s significance:

…Singapore Management University law lecturer Eugene Tan said he felt that the difference in scores between institutions was too small to be meaningful and that the poll did not explain why the media was ranked lower.

To be sure, to put the numbers in some perspective, Singapore’s institutions scored better than the Asia-Pacific and global averages, which suggests public confidence here is higher than the overall mean. TI also states in its report that the margin of error per country in its findings are between +/- 2.18 to 4.40 percent.

Notwithstanding that, politicians are eager to prescribe a hefty pinch of salt for readers of the report:

When contacted, [Government Parliamentary Committee] deputy chairman (Home Affairs and Law) Hri Kumar Nair reiterated that the majority of Singaporeans do think that government actions against corruption are successful and that the online survey may not paint an accurate picture.

On what basis might Hri Kumar assert these findings don’t reflect the “accurate picture” is open to conjecture, but one suspects the best way through which he could back his claim is presenting data gathered using…a survey.

Then there are methodological issues:

GPC deputy chairman (Information, Communications and the Arts) Baey Yam Keng added: “The online survey might have attracted certain profiles, perhaps people who do not rely on the mainstream media (for news) … that could be something when digesting this information.”

Baey makes a good point. The Singapore survey was done online – hardly ideal as the respondent demographic is likely self-selecting and limited. Although TI said its sampling was probabilistic – i.e. every unit in the population has a greater-than-zero chance of being selected in the sample, and this probability can be accurately determined – doing it online means certain groups are very unlikely to be surveyed, like the 19 percent of Singapore resident households that are without internet access (as of 2009). Even within households with internet access, certain demographics use the internet only infrequently or not at all (think 70-, 80-year-old retirees who prefer TV soaps and newspapers).

TI also said it weighted its findings to make them representative of the general population, although how it might have sought to overcome online polling’s inherent sampling problems is unclear.

Furthermore, the survey design also affords much leeway for respondents to interpret what corruption entails. While this might not be an issue when perceiving corruption in most public and state institutions, it is less clear-cut what constitutes a “corrupt” media. Could the relatively poor corruption rating be a proxy for what respondents see as lack of independence or partiality in Singapore media, rather than a reflection of perceived graft?

So what we have here is no perfect survey; big surprise, nothing is. Still, this knowledge shouldn’t stop us from asking more discerning questions of the results to tease out fresh insight, while avoiding kneejerk accusations based on superficial readings of the data.

But if past form is any guide, government leaders and the mainstream press wouldn’t shy from citing this barometer in future acclamations of traditional media. After all, they were more than enthusiastic in citing less rigorously performed surveys that employed less representative sampling, like the Edelman Trust Barometer referenced by information minister Lui Tuck Yew, to make extravagant, sweeping claims.

Strange then that the Straits Times declined to publish any of TI’s findings on Singapore, instead running a broad-sweeping AFP story that placed the survey within a global context. And while CNA and Today indulged readers with a short story, it was angled to shroud the survey in doubt, applying critical scrutiny notably absent in reports of surveys that offered glowing reviews of our city-state. Such eager shifters of journalistic goalposts our newsroom denizens are.

That politicians are so craftily selective in their rhetoric is to be expected, but regrettably some of our feted journalists too have adopted for an ethos the immortal words of that Class 90.5FM advertisement: “Only hear the good stuff.”

Press muse – Friends with benefits

•December 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed many an itchy back recently.  It’s an endemic and mostly mild condition, but occasionally it flares up and a kindred spirit has to swoop in to offer a comforting scratch.

Singapore’s traditional press, long irritated by new media upstarts, were fortunate recipients of a elaborate back rub last month. Home affairs and law minister K. Shanmugam spoke of its trustworthiness and fulfillment of key socio-political roles. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong called on them to convince readers they remain “one of the most dependable sources of news, information and commentaries,” while lamenting the rise of new media that “will give rise to an increasingly individualistic…or ‘atomised’ society.” Information minister Lui Tuck Yew too cheered the local press for being “broad-based, reaching as much of the population as possible.”

There is, of course, quid pro quo in this public lovin’. In return, the traditional news media politely scratch politicians’ pathological prickly backs, declining to poke holes in their flimsy logic and ask difficult questions like how we let a fugitive slip through a supposedly watertight dragnet.

But as intimate as they seem, this relationship’s wide open – the media welcomes all comers bearing the right gifts. Take the following story, run by the Straits Times on Wednesday (1 December) evening, on youth attitudes toward the media in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region. An excerpt follows:

Young prefers newspapers

WHEN it comes to news, teens and tweens here are still turning to newspapers and not the Internet as widely thought.

That is what a survey by Panasonic Asia Pacific found. Covering seven countries in the region, the online survey had 609 respondents between 10 to 15 years old. Some 100 of them were from Singapore.

Those surveyed said newspapers were their main source of news, followed by TV and websites.

Most of the young people surveyed – 66 per cent – also found newspapers more credible than blogs.

Very eye-pleasing findings for the traditional media, particularly newspapers, indeed. But, of course, the Japanese firm concerned is a client of a company wholly-owned by the Straits Times’ publishers (see: “About SPH MediaBoxOffice Pte Ltd“), and hardly a disinterested player in the corporate media industry.

It was, however, Singapore Press Holdings’ rival Mediacorp that milked the story for its worth, throwing in colourful quotes and illustrative numbers. Excerpts of the story, also published Wednesday, follow:

S’pore youths remain very much traditional news consumers

SINGAPORE: The young in Singapore are serious news consumers, according to a regional survey conducted by Panasonic.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with Panasonic’s Regional Kid Witness News contest.

Close to half of total youth surveyed said they read or watched the news at least once a day.

The survey involved about 600 youth from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

And, they rated traditional forms of media – such as TV and newspapers – top.

In particular, Channel NewsAsia spent some time boasting its superior street cred.

Youth also said showed a lower preference of seeking news and information from blogs and forums.

Singapore respondents particularly seemed more discerning about the trustworthiness of blogs.

“I like blogs and websites because I think it’s easier for me to access into it. Sometimes if I just want to check the accuracy, I think I just watch the news on TV,” said 14-year-old Loga Ragumathan from Sembawang Secondary School.

Another student, 14-year-old Calvin Leong from Sembawang Secondary School, prefers the newspaper.

“I usually go towards the newspapers. I find newspapers very reliable. The source is very very accurate [whereas] from blogs, you can get different opinions from other people.”

Having elaborated the media credibility gap, Channel NewsAsia broke down the survey results as follows:

Singapore youth formed 17 per cent of total respondents.

Ninety per cent get their daily dose of news from newspapers, followed by television (73 per cent) and online news websites (41 per cent).

In comparison, respondents in the region has television as the most common source (80 per cent), followed by newspapers (66 per cent) and magazines (40 per cent).

They also showed a low preference of seeking news and information from blogs, forums and sharing sites.

Only 36 per cent of Singapore respondents felt that news by bloggers is more believable than that in the newspaper.

Plenty of definitive detail devoted to a survey done by a consumer electronics manufacturer with merely 609 respondents, of which only 100 (or 103, depending on which story you read) are from Singapore. Unfortunately, there appears to be no publicly released documentation of this survey by Panasonic. But don’t let that stop you from passing critical judgement from the circumstantial evidence.

The survey’s small and questionable sampling reeks dubiousness of research aims and methodology, while the news stories bear the hallmarks of  ‘churnalism‘ – where public relations and advertising copy enters or even masquerades as news copy. Not that it bothered the Straits Times’ and Channel NewsAsia editors, clearly. But why not?

Veteran journalist Nick Davies believes commercial pressures placing a premium on volume over veracity may be to blame. Psychiatrist and science geek Ben Goldacre argued it to be a result of humanities-trained journalists’ lack of nuanced understanding of research methods. Perhaps they’re right. But I’m a cynical bastard, and I see this as the political economy of the mass media at work – a mix of conscious and unconscious collaboration, economic symbiosis and horsetrading.

Sure, I might have a chip on my shoulder in saying this, being an acolyte of the disparaged new media. But a spade is still a spade, and excessive extrapolation from a suspect survey done with weak methodology toward scarcely scientific purposes is still bad journalism. And despite the healthy prognosis from politicians and Panasonic, traditional media has had good reason to keep its friends close and happy.

Take the numbers from the recently released 2010 SPH annual report. Circulation for most of its major newspapers have slipped again from a year ago. The Straits Times’ daily average circulation in August 2010 fell to 365,800, down 2.3 percent from 374,500 a year ago, and a drop of 6.3 percent from 2000 – the only year in the last 11 that saw the Straits Times circulate above 390,000.

Only the Sunday Times (+0.05 percent), Shin Min Daily News (+3.6 percent) and Tamil Murasu (+5 percent) saw circulation increase from 2009. Many other SPH newspapers extended decade-long slumps – the Business Times, Shin Min Daily News and Tamil Murasu are the only papers showing in 2010 better circulation figures than in 2000.

Overall readership too fell slightly from a year ago, as seen in this imprecise trend graph from the 2010 annual report. English newspaper readership also dove slightly from 2009, according to another conveniently vague chart; in fact, there appears to have been no net growth in the decade since 2000.

No need to push the panic button, though; the political, legal and economic framework is still in place for continued SPH and Mediacorp dominance of the local media market. But, as I’m sure they figured, greasing palms with softball commentary and advertorials to win some friends with benefits won’t do them any bad. Not at all.