New BBC channels go live in Asia

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SINGAPORE -- BBC Global Channels' three new 24-hour channels went live across Asia on Sunday amid weekend-long celebrations, including public appearances here by U.K. celebrity chef James Martin, Dave Myers and Si King from culinary travelogue "The Hairy Bikers" and Pui Fan Lee, who plays Po in British children's program "Teletubbies."

Two of the channels -- BBC Knowledge and BBC Lifestyle -- were global debuts, making their first appearance on the new MIO TV IPTV platform launched by Singapore's dominant telecommunications company, SingTel. The third channel is kids service Cbeebies, which launched in India earlier this year.

The launch of the three new channels coincided with the end of a long-running battle between Singapore's two pay TV players over exclusive channel carriage agreements.

On Friday, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) upheld an earlier decision by the Media Development Authority not to ban exclusive channel carriage agreements between pay TV operators and programrs.

Singapore's dominant pay TV operator, StarHub, has exclusive carriage agreements with most global television brands, including HBO, Discovery and Sony Pictures Entertainment's AXN and Animax channels.

SingTel claimed that exclusive carriage agreements were a serious impediment to a viable IPTV business and unreasonably restricted competition.

In rejecting SingTel's appeal, MICA said "there remained ample scope for commercial negotiations" in Singapore.

The minister also said that the international precedents that SingTel used to support its case were not appropiate in Singapore because StarHub "neither owns nor is affiliated with any providers of key content."
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