'Choice' key as Singapore preps mobile TV regs


SINGAPORE -- Singapore authorities are moving into the mobile TV broadcast world with no caps on foreign ownership of new networks with fewer than 100,000 subscribers and a regulatory regime designed to "promote innovation and choice," according to proposals released Wednesday by the Media Development Authority.

Interested parties have until Jan. 4 to respond to the guidelines, which also include bringing mobile TV broadcast operators under the same content codes as the country's three existing free and pay TV providers.

In a bid to create "a level playing field in the mobile TV industry," mobile phone operators with 3G video services are likely to be forced to toe the strict content line.

The government expects to release its policy position on mobile broadcasting in the tiny island nation of four million people in early 2008.

Commercial services with up to 80 channels could follow in the second half of next year, the MDA's director of media policy, Ling Pek Ling, said.

Four multiplex licenses will be issued. Each can support between three and 20 television channels. Foreign-ownership restrictions of 49% kick in at the 100,000 subscriber level. Operators can seek ministerial permission to waive the limit, MDA officials said.

The MDA's proposal takes a technology- and platform-neutral line, and favors a "market-driven, light-touch and pro-enterprise regulatory framework to attract more players into the Singapore market."

The authority said operators needed "the flexibility to deploy a standard that best suits their business case."

The impact of mobile TV services on Singapore's youth is a key concern.

MDA officials said consumers have to be protected from harmful or sensitive content such as pornography or programs that incited religious or racial hatred.

"The personalized nature of mobile TV and potential high-adoption rate among young users for mobile services suggests the need to regulate mobile in the same way as traditional fixed TV services," the MDA statement released at the media briefing said.

The MDA statement also said that the introduction of commercial mobile broadcasting services "is in line with the nation's goal to develop Singapore as a global media city and a test-bed for new media services."