Anyone but the daft Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew, could see that his ruling on March 12, which stipulated that all exclusive content deals signed from that day would have to be carried by other pay-TV operators, was a contradiction in terms. Meriam and many other dictionaries define the term "exclusive" as "limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group".
Lui thought he could apply the wisdom of Solomon to solve the problem which stemmed from SingTel nabbing the exclusive contract to broadcast English Premier League games from StarHub last October by overpaying to the tune of several hundred million dollars. Unlike the second-hand submarines he bought for Singapore as Chief of Navy, this issue is not so easily hidden underwater.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) said on 13th May the move hurts Singapore's investment environment and deprives "content owners and creators of their freedom to negotiate contracts in a competitive market". More seriously, the new rules actually breach the rights of content owners under an international copyright treaty, the WTO's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement and the US-Singapore bilateral trade agreement. "Singapore is now in a situation of contravention of all three agreements," said the Hong Kong-based group. Mr Simon Twiston Davies, Casbaa's chief executive officer, said ultimately consumers will suffer as the ruling discourages content distributors from offering new and improved products. Casbaa represents 130 content producers, pay-TV platform operators and equipment and service suppliers in 16 Asian markets, including global competitors such as BBC Worldwide, Bloomberg Television, Disney Media Distribution and Sony Pictures Television.
"The Government and the regulator, the MDA, have made a serious miscalculation of the damage to Singapore's economic interests through this excessively broad regulatory decision," said Mr Twiston Davis.
For over more than a decade, Singapore has made most notable progress in the region when attracting international content companies to the country, despite its repressive measures such as banning the public use of satellite dishes which are easily available in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. With one step, Lui has brought the nation back to the stone age.