SINGAPORE - Even after the plug is pulled on analogue TV transmission next year, Housing Board households will still have three months to apply for a government-sponsored starter kit to get their TV digital-ready.
The deadline to apply for the Digital TV (DTV) Starter Kit will be extended from Dec 31 this year to March 31 next year, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Friday (Dec 21).
All HDB households that do not have a pay-TV subscription are eligible for the kit.
Eligible households can redeem a free set-top box and antenna package, and opt for free delivery and installation as well.
Or they can redeem $100 for selected digital TV equipment purchases, such as an antenna, a set-top box, or an integrated digital TV, from participating electronics retailers including Best Denki, Courts, Gain City, and Harvey Norman.
The price of a digital antenna and set-top box bundle at these stores is around $100.
From Jan 2, 2019, analogue TV signals will be disabled - meaning households that have not switched to DTV will no longer be able to watch Mediacorp free-to-air programmes.
IMDA said that 90 per cent of Singapore households are already receiving DTV either over-the-air, or through their pay-TV subscription. In September, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the figure was 80 per cent, in a parliamentary written reply.
IMDA said 450,000 households have made the switch using DTV Starter Kits or through the Digital TV Assistance Scheme (DTVAS), which was rolled out in 2014 to provide low-income households with a free digital set-up box, indoor antenna as well as the free installation.
The authority will ramp up efforts to ensure that households can better receive help when analogue TV transmission is cut in less than two weeks.
It will set set up DTV support counters at all 106 community clubs/centres across the island from Dec 26 to Dec 31, 2018, and Jan 2 to Jan 6, 2019, from 2pm to 9pm.
At these counters, households can redeem their DTV Starter Kits and have them installed on the same day, or obtain help on DTV-related matters. They can also collect their DTV Starter Kits at 16 of these DTV Support Counters or at 11 M1 Shop outlets across the island.
The plan to end analogue broadcasts at the end of 2017 was put on hold for a year to get more people to switch. In April this year, The Straits Times reported that up to 400,000 Housing Board homes had yet to make the switch.
The Government has set aside $40 million to help equip homes to receive digital broadcasts ahead of the Dec 31, 2018, deadline.
Last year, then Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the Government was committed to helping Singaporeans switch to digital TV and enjoy its benefits.
He said in Parliament last November that access to Mediacorp's free-to-air channels is important as they are a key source of news and entertainment in four languages, and carry programmes that promote societal values and the Singaporean identity.
Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, enabling viewers to receive higher-quality images and sound. Viewers can also enjoy benefits such as being able to choose which of the subtitle and language options to display.
Households which have not made the switch will see a smaller picture on their screens, which is a visual reminder for them to do so before analogue TV signals are turned off.