RIP Teletext: Older investors grapple with new gadgets

The older generation had grown dependent on Teletext, which was started in 1983, for news, stock prices, lottery results and airport and weather information. MediaCorp switched off the service on Monday.
The older generation had grown dependent on Teletext, which was started in 1983, for news, stock prices, lottery results and airport and weather information. MediaCorp switched off the service on Monday.ST FILE PHOTO

Older stock investors were feeling their way around and brokers were bracing themselves for a reduction in their already-soft business as the decades-old Teletext service was switched off on Monday.

Young people were also teaching their seniors how to use new technologies, such as the Internet and mobile devices, to find out stock prices.

"It would have been better if the service was retained, but it's now no more and we can't change the situation," retiree Tan Jong Keng, 92, told The Straits Times in Mandarin.

Mr Tan's grandson and daughter taught him how to use a smartphone to check stock prices on Monday night. "Sometimes I can use (the phone), sometimes I cannot use it as I forget which keys to press," said Mr Tan. "It's okay to learn slowly."

Broadcaster MediaCorp said at the start of last month that it would discontinue Teletext, an analogue service that provided news, stock prices, lottery results, and airport and weather information.

The decision sparked complaints from many senior citizens and their children, arguing that the older generation has grown dependent on the service that was started in 1983. Some argued that it was not easy for elderly people to use new technologies.

Remisiers have been vociferous in their opposition, fearing a reduction in their business, which has already been slow.

"Based on the response by remisiers, many people have called up and asked why there was nothing more to see on Teletext," said Mr Jimmy Ho, president of The Society of Remisiers (Singapore).

He added that the older investors are not tech-savvy, yet they have more savings to invest. "Some people said they will stop trading, and we will miss out on them... they are quite significant to the retail market," Mr Ho said.

"There are many people who feel bad to call the remisiers every few minutes to ask for prices."

Other methods to check stock prices include websites like the Singapore Exchange site and mobile applications such as Bloomberg. StarHub also has a service similar to Teletext, but people must first subscribe to the firm's cable television service and have its set-up box.

MediaCorp wrote to The Straits Times' Forum letters page last month noting that broadcasters in Britain, Australia and New Zealand have retired the Teletext service in recent years.

Some investors said it is never too old to learn new technologies. Madam Wong Ai Cheng, a 66-year-old retiree who has been using the computer and Internet to monitor the stock market since 1998, said: "I didn't really stick to Teletext; the computer is easier."

Madam Wong is teaching computer skills to her brother-in-law to help him deal with the loss of Teletext.

jonkwok@sph.com.sg