Low Thia Khiang questions cancellation of Teletext, says many elderly affected

Opposition parliamentarian Low Thia Khiang took aim on Monday at the Goverment's decision to allow Mediacorp to pull the plug on Teletext. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN
Opposition parliamentarian Low Thia Khiang took aim on Monday at the Goverment's decision to allow Mediacorp to pull the plug on Teletext. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

OPPOSITION parliamentarian Low Thia Khiang took aim on Monday at the Goverment's decision to allow Mediacorp to pull the plug on Teletext.

The 30-year-old analogue information service, which anyone with a television could access, was shut down on Sept 30 by Mediacorp, which cited declining usage as the chief reason.

But this move affected many elderly citizens who depend on the service, said Mr Low who is an Aljunied GRC MP. Addressing Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in Parliament, he said: "There were quite a lot of complaints on the ground. What is the minister's answer to that?"

He quoted a 2011 survey by the Infocomm and Development Authority (IDA) which found that only 15 per cent of those aged 60 and above used the Internet, while less than half of those in their 50s said they had used a computer or the Internet in the past 12 months. Mr Low asked why Mediacorp was in "such a hurry" to terminate the teletext service before government programmes had ensured seniors were sufficiently prepared to switch to and use the alternatives.

Dr Yaacob replied that his ministry and Mediacorp had indeed received feedback, especially from the elderly, about the shutdown of Teletext. But in fact "a long list of programmes" had been rolled out "long before 2011" to help the elderly learn how to use the internet. So far about 77,000 seniors have been trained under the ongoing Silver Infocomm Initiative.

Mediacorp had found the number of Teletext users had dropped from 187,000 in 2011 to 28,000 this year. Dr Yaacob said his ministry, recognising that there are alternatives, had to "give them the leeway (to cancel Teletext) because they are basically in the market and they know better how to conduct such a service".