In his commentary ("In politics and life, as in sports, the ball is round"; Sunday), Mr Warren Fernandez suggested that public funds had been spent on buying airtime to broadcast government messages on free-to-air TV during the World Cup, and that it was a waste of public funds to do so. He opined that these funds could instead have been used to help cover some of the costs of providing the coverage of more, if not all, of the World Cup matches.
Indeed, that was precisely what the Government has done. To let as many Singaporeans as possible enjoy the World Cup, the Media Development Authority revised the Anti-Siphoning List in 2012 to include the four key World Cup matches (that is, the opening match, semi-finals and finals). This ensured that the tournament was not monopolised by pay-TV retailers, and paved the way for MediaCorp to acquire these matches.
The Government also went one step further by providing a partial subsidy to MediaCorp for the acquisition of these four key matches, to ensure their availability on free-to-air TV.
In return, MediaCorp allocated advertising airtime to the Government. It was this airtime that the Government used to screen some public service messages during the World Cup, such as the ones on the Pioneer Generation Package.
Most of the screenings of World Cup matches at community clubs were made possible through corporate sponsorship and through contributions from Singapore Pools. No public funds were used for the screenings at sporting venues.
The combined value of the allocated airtime and the Singapore Pools sponsorships, however, is still very far from the cost of acquiring the broadcast rights to all the World Cup matches.
As explained in Parliament by Mr Lawrence Wong, Second Minister for Communications and Information, the price for the broadcast rights to the World Cup is set by Fifa, and prices have been escalating around the world and not just in Singapore.
A lot more taxpayers' money would have to be diverted to the World Cup if all the matches were to be made available on free-to-air TV.
Han Liang Yuan (Ms)
Director, Corporate Relations Division
Ministry of Communications and Information
WARREN FERNANDEZ REPLIES:
Many will be hoping that between now and the next World Cup in Russia in 2018, ways can be devised to make more than four out of 64 games available to the public. Many other countries have done so.
This article was first published on July 15, 2014.
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