Friday, June 15, 2007

ST Forum: Time to reconsider satellite TV for homes

A couple of days ago, on June 14, 2007, this letter appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times.

Time to reconsider satellite TV for homes
I AM curious to know if the Media Development Authority would be re-evaluating the policy on satellite TV for homes.

While undesirable contents that are at odds with Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society may be a key concern, with proper implementation of policy and the choice of a responsible service provider, this concern could be addressed adequately.

Each time I visit my relatives in Malaysia, I am blown away by the wide range of channels available on Astro. Yet, I have never heard my relatives complain about inadequacy of censorship.

In fact, I have always associated Malaysia with having tighter censorship than Singapore with regard to its public television and cinemas.

If censorship seems to be a non-issue for satellite-TV audiences in Malaysia, why can't Singaporeans enjoy the same?

We don't regulate the Internet despite there being more objectionable content that risks eroding the fabric of Singapore's sensitive cultural and racial mix.

Despite the power of the authorities to revoke licences at any time, I believe it would not be too difficult to find service providers who would toe the line.

The construction of physical infrastructure is an expensive business, which might explain why it may not be feasible to have more than one or two operators offering content to the masses. Satellite technology eliminates some of these constraints and makes the distribution of content much more efficient.

My relatives across the border pay only a fraction of the prices we pay for cable TV here, and even then prices here are being increased again.

Satellite TV is already allowed in hotels here. This makes the discrimination a little difficult to understand - if tourists have access, why can't the local population?

We will soon have the Formula 1 race and casinos, and we have ditched many stereotypes about Singapore in the last five years. It is time to reflect on the rationale behind some of our restrictive policies, in view of the new-look Singapore we are aiming to build.

Wong Wai Pong

The letter pretty much summed up what I said here: the internet is provides far more access to radical material than satellite TV, satellite TV is already available to some organizations in Singapore, Singtel itself operates satellite TV services in Australia and the overhead cost of introducing satellite service is relatively low.

The lame response from the Media Development Authority of Singapore appeared today in the ST.

Ample alternatives, no plans for satellite TV
I REFER to the letter, 'Time to reconsider satellite TV for homes' (ST, June 14), by Mr Wong Wai Pong.

The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) encourages the entry of new media services, such as those offered by Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) players, into the market.

In addition to offering traditional TV programmes, broadband services such as IPTV can support two-way interactive TV services, which will enhance the TV-viewing experience.

Singapore will benefit from the entry of these players as this will encourage further development of our media market and increase the choice and quality of services available to consumers.

Today, StarHub Cable Vision Ltd is not the only pay-TV operator in Singapore. There are other operators. For example, M2B World offers over 40 video-on-demand (VOD) channels of content. MediaCorp offers VOD content over its MOBTV service. SingTel offers VOD content services and will be launching pay-TV services via IPTV soon.

MDA has also issued licences to a few more operators to conduct trial TV services in Singapore.

There are currently no plans to introduce satellite TV as there are already other alternatives in the market.

Ling Pek Ling (Ms)
Director (Media Policy)
Media Development Authority of Singapore

Again, MDA totally avoids the questions put forward by Wong Wai Pong and gave a typical civil service reply. For example, Wong asked:

1. If censorship seems to be a non-issue for satellite-TV audiences in Malaysia, why can't Singaporeans enjoy the same?
2. Satellite TV is already allowed in hotels here. This makes the discrimination a little difficult to understand - if tourists have access, why can't the local population?

Note that Ms. Ling Pek Ling of the MDA addressed none of the above.

At the very least, Ms. Ling did not resort to the specious argument, put forward previously by MDA, that we have to ban satellite TV because it potentially threatens the social stability of Singapore. The omission of that argument makes it obvious that protecting social stability is probably not the primary reason why satellite TV services are banned in Singapore.

Sometimes, I wonder why people write in to the ST Forum to express their views on a contentious public policy (SAF, foreign labour, GST hikes, satellite TV ban, etc). The government simply deflects the critical points by not answering them. P21 my foot.


Anonymous said...

Singapore Media is Bullshit.
WE can access to hundred over televisions over the world online. What is singapore government owned tv media doing.

I am watching FREE hundred over television channels online.

Fuck up the Singapore government and media.

ringisei said...

Being an ex-civil servant myself, it is particularly stressful to get this kind of letter from a member of the public. For a start, both Wong and Ling probably know what the real answer is. Neither are going to say it because neither are the decision-makers who can actually change the policy, thus the civil service non-answer to a trick-trap question. The power to give a real answer or any real chance to change the policy comes from the principals (i.e. the politicians) who are hiding behind the civil servants! But of course when Ah Kong comes to tell us his frank answer straight up, most of us cannot tahan. :P

Fox said...

I actually think that writing to the ST Forums does help in the sense that it helps to bring attention to things which need to be discussed. At the very least, the public know that there is a government policy with which some of its members do not agree. Also, non-answers by the government PR machine helps alert the public that the government is trying to conceal the real purpose of that particular policy.

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Andi said...

If you understand the technical side of content delivery via satellite vs. terresterial connection, then you'd understand Spore government's thought.

You cannot monitor/censor any content received from satellite because it's broadcast and received directly by satellite dish. On the other hand, terrestrial can be monitored. Should one day Spore government needs to exert control like that of China, it can do so easily than asking all satellite dish owners to switch off the receivers. One thing for sure, they cannot ask all satellites in orbit to stop transmission.