Minister: Use of broadcast funds needs 'delicate' balance

Minister: Use of broadcast funds needs 'delicate' balance

There are several reasons why you won't be able to catch more World Cup matches on the free-to-air channels.

Firstly, pay-TV operators will see it as a small incentive to acquire the matches and then screen them for free, said Mr Lawrence Wong, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Communications and Information.

So why not tap public funds?

Mr Wong said in Parliament yesterday that they will tap the funds in the public kitty for just four key matches - the opening match, the semi-finals and the final. The matches will be available on free-to-air broadcaster MediaCorp's channels.

Yes, the Public Service Broadcast (PSB) fund has money - $812 million in total for financial years 2012 to 2016, said a Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesman.

But Mr Wong said the money was also needed to support a diverse range of programming, including support for minority channels and programmes that promote Singapore's culture and heritage.

He said MDA has to maintain a "delicate balance" to protect consumers' interest.

He added that making all the matches free for all may have "unintended consequences", like having MediaCorp, the free-to-air broadcaster, shouldering the cost burden.

"Doing so would then divert a significant portion of PSB monies," he said.

That fund has almost doubled from the last five-year block. Between 2007 and 2011, it was $470 million.

Mr Wong was responding to several Members of Parliament, including Dr Lee Bee Wah, who asked what more could be done to make football matches more accessible to Singaporeans.

Dr Lee, who is the president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association, had cited how countries like Japan and Thailand will air all matches for free.

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