Ministry of Communications and Information Committee of Supply 2016 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered in Parliament on 11 April 2016)

Withdrawal of 2G Phone Services – Pritam Singh

Madam Chairperson, the withdrawal of 2G phone services by April 2017 will affect up to 250,000 individuals, in particular the elderly who are seek a basic device for their use, and foreign workers who rely on the cheapest handsets. Customers are also likely to pay more when they transit from 2G pre-paid plans after April 2017. It is known that 7 out 10 of the 250,000 affected individuals are on pre-paid plans – can the Minister share how many elderly Singaporeans are represented in this group?

Would IDA would consider working with the three telcos to consider a special upgrade or rebate voucher for elderly Singaporeans on pre-paid plans who would likely see higher bills after April 2017? What is the anticipated percentage of the rise in their bills with the withdrawal of this service?

Can the Minister also explain how the Silver Infocomm Initiative has been rolled out and implemented to assist elderly Singaporeans would will be affected by this transition? In addition, are outreach efforts available in Chinese dialects and the vernacular languages such as Malay and Tamil as well, since our elderly comprise a very diverse group?

Public Service Broadcast – Png Eng Huat

Madam, the arrival of digital broadcasting in Singapore and the adoption of the DVB­T2 broadcast standard, which boasts higher efficiency, robustness and flexibility, will free up some valuable spectrum when the analogue broadcast is finally switched off.

I call upon the regulatory authority to re­allocate some of these spectrum to support the schools and the arts community under the Public Service Broadcast framework. The programming for these dedicated free­to­air channels should be supported and managed by the respective stakeholders.

The local theatre and performing arts scene could use a fully funded free­to­air arts channel to help artists and performers promote their works and labour of love beyond the limited coverage given by the state-owned media.

The National Arts Council says on its website that it celebrates ‘excellence in the arts’ and it will work to ‘make it accessible to all.’  DVB­T2 will allow that vision to become a reality because everyone can have access to such free­to­air contents using the mobile device in his or her hands.

Madam, how many times have we seen sports events in our schools covered in our free­to­air channels in the course of an academic year?  The sports scene in our schools will certainly breathe a new lease of life and excitement if such competitive events are covered and broadcast on free­to­air public service channels.

And such programmes can be produced and directed by the many arts and communications students in our polytechnics and universities as part of their curriculum and training.  I believe our students would love to take on the challenge to produce such programmes, and have their productions carried on free­to­air channel.  The experience these students acquire in the course of doing that is immeasurable.

The arrival of digital broadcasting in Singapore presents a wonderful opportunity for regulators and policymakers to deepen the skillsets of our own talents and broaden the scope of our expertise to become a media hub in the region.  It also present an opportunity for the regulators to widen the public service broadcast framework to include areas which were not given much attention in the past.