Friday, March 12, 2010

Minister Lui Says, Just Do It

Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui Tuck Yew and Acting Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts just mandated that competitors Starhub (cable TV) and Singtel  (IP TV) work out a way for customers to to watch shows from one another, without having to install two boxes in their homes or open another account account. Under the revised Media Market Conduct Code, pay-TV providers must also charge all viewers the same fee for exclusive content they have the rights to, whether they are its customers or another player's.  One suspects that when he was Chief of Navy, he probably proposed sending up submarines to attack land-locked Kuala Lumpur.

While at it, he might as well ask Microsoft and Google to provide a search engine that yields the same results for a query.

Lui is obviously so IT-challenged that he can't tell the difference between delivering content over a cable and a DSL line. Nor is he commercially aware that competing media providers survive by offering unique programming content, at prices customers are willing to pay a premium for. He reminds one of ex-Chief Justice Yong Pung How's daughter being made head of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. Then, at least she recognised her own lack of technical competence for the job, when she declared, " I don't even know what CDMA is, but I can always hire someone who does."

Maybe Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui was trying to restore credibility for impotently responding to a question at a dialogue session with residents and grassroots leaders at Xinmin Primary School with, "Ultimately, the consumers will have to decide for themselves whether they want either StarHub or SingTel, or whether they are prepared to have both." SingTel's outbidding StarHub by reportedly $100 million for Barclays Premier League telecast rights had riled football fans, who may end up paying for a technology platform which the telco will be struggling with to deliver the fast moving broadcasts.

Singtel, no-longer under the charge of equally technology-challenged Lee Hsien Yang, and fully apprised of its legally-binding contract for EPL 2010-2013, issued its own response: "We will carefully review the details and actively engage the MDA through the industry consultation process. Our rights to the BPL and ESS channels are not affected by this announcement." In other words, you're so clever, you come up with the solution.

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