Does pay-TV competition serve public interest?

SINGAPORE - Singtel, having failed in its bid to circumvent the Media Development Authority's cross-carriage rules, is now making English Premier League fans pay a higher price to watch the games ("Price to watch EPL shoots up after SingTel loses appeal"; last Saturday).

Arguably, this had its roots in SingTel's decision to wrest the broadcast rights from StarHub by outbidding the latter.

This is an opportune time to review if competition in the pay-TV sphere really serves the public interest.

Is there sufficient content and product segmentation to ensure that both StarHub and SingTel are not just blindly bidding up content prices just to increase their market share?

Given that the average viewer has no alternative other than these two providers, the demand dynamics become fairly inelastic and viewers are forced to accept ever higher prices.

Broadcast media is a public good and should remain as such. Singapore is too small a market to have two providers slugging it out at the expense - and to the detriment - of consumers.

We should review if the public interest is being served. In the meantime, I suggest that viewers vote with their feet. There are other ways to watch EPL matches without being held hostage to service providers' demands.

- Tan Suan Jin

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