Regulator, pay TV industry at standoff over new content rules

Bill Mumford
CommunciAsia Show Daily

Singapore's broadcast regulator and pay TV content providers are at loggerheads over a plan to require exclusive content to be made available to both Singapore pay TV providers.

Under its proposed new media conduct code, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has mandated that exclusive content be made available on both StarHub and SingTel platforms, drawing protests from the Cable & Satellite Broadcasters' Association of Asia (CASBAA).

The body, which represents content owners such as Disney, HBO and Turner Broadcasting, says the new "cross-carriage" scheme will deprive content owners and creators of their ability to freely negotiate contracts.

MDA's head of competition & market access, Eileen Ang, said content owners would continue to have "full freedom" to negotiate contracts. She said the measure was aimed at tackling a fragmented pay TV market, where more than 90% of the top 100 channels were available only on an exclusive basis.

"We don't see there is any intrusion on their contracts," she said in an interview with Show Daily.

However, CASBAA deputy CEO John Medeiros said the changes only benefited those channels whose business model revolved around non-exclusivity. It did not work for other business models, such as minimum subscriber guarantees or the sale of channel bundles.

"The increased value of the larger audience is not anything near the prerogatives and the control that they lose," he said.

CASBAA also believes that the scheme infringes Singapore's obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property protection regime, known as TRIPS, which said governments could mandate content only in "certain special cases."
Ang said the MDA did not believe the new rules breached the government's international obligations.

She said the authority would issue a "preliminary decision" on the media conduct code next month, and would consult further before making a final decision.

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