Singapore's dominant broadcaster Media Corp will expand aggressively throughout the region following the recent signing of a joint venture with SAR media tycoon Lim Por-yen's eSun Holdings to produce films for the growing mainland market. Media Corp plans to expand its offshore businesses to counter a shrinking advertising market and increasing competition in its domestic market. The government-owned broadcaster has seen its dominance of the Singapore market challenged by Singapore Press Holding, which launched a broadcasting arm, MediaWorks, in June. The new entrant has claimed a 25 per cent share of the free-to-air TV audience. Media Corp chairman Cheng Wai-keung said the increased competition had driven the company to speed up the diversification of its business and its regional expansion. At present, 70 per cent of Media Corp's revenue is derived from its core television units. Other businesses include radio, newspaper publishing, a film studio and the Internet. Media Corp chief executive Ernest Wong said the company had invested S$15 million (about HK$63.45 million) to S$20 million on developing interactive businesses and an additional S$30 million on setting up an information technology fund. Mr Cheng said Media Corp attracted about 40 per cent of Singapore's annual total advertising expenditure, which he estimated at about S$1.2 billion. 'The advertising market contracted about 20 per cent this year,' he said, adding that television and print media had been hit hardest. He said the company had decided to freeze the salaries of its 3,000 workers but refused to comment on whether there would be a headcount reduction. Mr Cheng said that the proportion of revenue generated from overseas markets had been about 10 per cent before the Asian crisis but now accounted for less than 5 per cent. 'There is limited growth for us in the domestic market,' Mr Cheng said. He hoped to speed up the firm's expansion plans for the region from where he wanted to generate at least 30 to 40 per cent of sales within three years. Media Corp set up Channel NewsAsia, an around-the-clock news channel, to extend its reach throughout the region. The channel is now awaiting approval to broadcast to high-end hotels and foreign residential compounds in China. Mr Cheng believed China was a largely untapped market for foreign media firms and would open up faster than expected.