Singapore

Govt ups efforts to help households make switch

Deadline for S'poreans to switch to digital broadcasts extended

Singaporeans still depending on analogue signals to watch free-to-air television will now have an extra year - till Jan 1, 2019 - to switch over to digital.

Only about half of the more than 139,000 low-income households here have made the switch to digital broadcasting, despite the rollout of a help scheme three years ago.

With just two months to go before the original termination date for analogue broadcasts, a quarter of households have not switched.

The announcement of the extension, made in Parliament yesterday, came in a written reply to Mr Melvin Yong's (Tanjong Pagar GRC) question on how ready low-income households here are for digital TV broadcasting.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said: "It is important that Singaporeans can continue to access Mediacorp's free-to-air channels after analogue broadcasting is phased out."

He added that free-to-air channels carry programmes that promote societal values and the Singaporean identity.

The move to digital broadcasting started in December 2013 when Mediacorp converted all seven of its free-to-air TV channels to the digital format.

It has continued to broadcast in the analogue format, but this will stop from 2019.

Although three-quarters of some 1.2 million households receive Mediacorp's digital TV signals, some low-income households have yet to make the switch to digital broadcasting, said Dr Yaacob.

These are people living in one- or two-room rental flats, or those on self-help groups' help schemes. They have a monthly income of $1,900 and below, or an annual property value of $13,000 or lower.

Under the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) help scheme rolled out in 2014, the needy households are entitled to free equipment.

It has sent out letters to more than 139,000 households but only about half have claimed and installed their free set-top boxes and indoor antenna, said Dr Yaacob in his written reply.

IMDA will be intensifying outreach efforts, but this is "not sufficient", he said.

Therefore, the Government decided to extend the deadline.

It will also beef up assistance for needy households and will announce the new measures next year.

TVLOW INCOMEYaacob Ibrahim