Lawrence Wong: Why no MDA subsidy for World Cup broadcast

The FIFA World Cup trophy is seen in Westfield shopping centre in west London on March 14, 2014, as part of its world tour ahead of the Brazil 2014 World Cup finals this summer. Public Service Broadcast(PSB) funds are not being used to sponsor t
The FIFA World Cup trophy is seen in Westfield shopping centre in west London on March 14, 2014, as part of its world tour ahead of the Brazil 2014 World Cup finals this summer. Public Service Broadcast(PSB) funds are not being used to sponsor the World Cup as it would not achieve the "delicate balance" required to protect consumers' interest, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday, April 14, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

Public Service Broadcast(PSB) funds are not being used to sponsor the broadcast of all World Cup matches here as it would not achieve the "delicate balance" required to protect consumers' interest, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong in Parliament Monday.

His reply came when pressed by four Members of Parliament (MPs) on what more could be done to make popular sports content such as the World Cup more affordable. Singapore viewers have to fork out $112 - possibly the highest globally - to pay-TV operator SingTel to watch the matches that kick off in June.

On PSB funds he said: "These funds are used to support a diverse range of programming covering varied interests and genres, including support for minority channels, as well as programmes that promote Singapore's culture and heritage.

Mr Wong, who is Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information added that the Media Development Authority (MDA) had to be wary of being "hasty to adopt populist measures that ultimately backfire, leaving consumers even worse-off."

The balance is achieved by including four key World Cup matches - opening, semi-finals and finals - in the anti-siphoning list of content that pay-TV providers cannot acquire exclusively. That means these matches will be broadcast on free-to-air channels. But if the list goes any longer, pay-TV operators would have little incentive to acquire the matches.

Mr Wong also reminded the house that Singapore is "unfortunately a price-taker" set against the rising cost of premium sports content globally.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Workers' Party's Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) also want to know if a review of policies that govern the broadcast of popular sporting events will be considered. They also questioned the effectiveness of the cross-carriage regime, which requires pay-TV operators to share exclusive content.

Mr Wong defended the rules, saying that the intent of cross-carriage is not to regulate content prices. "So we should not judge its effectiveness in terms of whether content prices have dropped."

But he said that the anti-siphoning list and cross-carriage rules will be reviewed in due course.