Singapore regulator defends “shared TV' plan

Singapore's media regulator has dismissed industry attacks on plans to force television broadcasters to share content, arguing that the proposals have been misunderstood and will increase competition by attracting new distributors.

Toh kai Ling, the Media Development Authority's deputy director of development policy, said that content providers should welcome the new rules because they would increase the number of potential subscribers.

In an interview with FT, Toh denied that the government had acted because of concern about the cost of English Premier League football, which is switching from the Starhub cable platform to the SingTel Mio internet-based platform after a bidding battle that forced up prices.

However, she said the Premier League rights rivalry underlined the potential for mass switching between distribution platforms as other exclusive content agreements expired, raising the prospect that many consumers would need to acquire two set-top boxes and subscribe to two distribution platforms unless the rules were changed.

Toh said Singapore's pay-TV market was uniquely fragmented, with only seven of 179 channels common to both distributors, while the island state was the only country where the top 16 channels by subscribers were all carried exclusively on one distribution platform. “We don't see this getting any better, in fact we think this situation will get worse,” she said.

The MDA proposals have been condemned by Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association Asia, an industry group, which claims they undermine the legal rights of content producers and threaten the development of high definition and 3D television.

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