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Plug in to Digital Television

Since 2014, Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has been on a mission to flip the switch on TV users’s experience. By the end of 2018, all Singaporean TV owners will be streaming in digital formats.

To ease citizens into the program, the government has put in place a Digital TV Assistance Scheme. Part of the scheme includes a starter kit to ease citizens into the movement. The Scheme kicked-off by targeting lower-income Singaporeans. In the final stretch of the campaign, the government has extended help to those who live in public housing. Advertorial and self-help campaigns are not scarce for this undertaking. Thus far, close to SGD 40 million has been spent.

The Itch to Switch

The death of analogue is part of a global movement to embrace digital technologies. Almost all the countries from the Global North have already gone fully digital. Even within Asia, the uptake of digital TV has become widespread. ASEAN nations have also made a pact to complete the switchover to digital TV by 2020.

However, Singapore is not in the business of being trendy. Rather, it is interested in providing quality services to its citizens. This includes the growing entertainment industry. In embracing digital TV, Singapore’s media industry will be able to leverage on the breadth of opportunities available for digital content and services. Furthermore, IMDA believes that locals should minimally have access to free-to-air channels since its programs promote societal values.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Through digital migration, user experience of broadcasted media is improved. There are two broadcast formats which digital TV supports: Standard Definition TV and High Definition TV. High Definition TV trumps Standard Definition TV in picture quality as the technology employed for Standard Definition TV resembles analogue. Local broadcasting service uses Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial (DVB-T2) to air its seven free-to-air channels.

Regardless, the most apparent upgrade for digital TV users is a far superior sound and picture quality than what traditional analogue could provide. Perils of sound dead spots or fuzzy images will soon become a thing of the past.

What to Watch Out for

The technology which supports the digital broadcasting format uses fewer frequencies. Consequently, freed up transmission frequencies may be redirected toward other broadcasting and telecommunications services. This includes more channel options and advanced wireless network services. In turn, broadcasting becomes more cost effective.

Some other services and features which the IMDA offers with the migration are electronic program guides to obtain TV synopses, subtitles in multiple languages, an option to record TV programs in a high definition format, and Toggle Red Button. The latter is a catch-up TV and video-on-demand services which can be accessed in vehicles and mobile phones which possess the DVB-T2 function. Thus, customers have the perks of a single seamless entertainment environment.

Yet, growing local free-to-air channel offerings are not on the local broadcaster’s horizon. Nevertheless, the local broadcaster might introduce several other new services and features upon the completion of the digital TV migration campaign.

Key Takeaways

The Singapore digital TV migration experience has illuminated the following:

1.       The need for a rigorous publicity campaign to educate citizens on the technology, and how to use it;

2.       A comprehensive policy proposal which encompasses actionable steps for operators, broadcasters, retailers and citizens;

3.       A prudent funding program which ensures the undertaking is sustainable. This might be in the form of public-private partnerships. Additionally, the budget should also make special consideration for individuals of weaker socioeconomic capabilities.

In doing so, governments can ensure that no one gets left behind in the digital transformation process.

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