Needy households get help to access digital TV

More than 160,000 low-income households can now apply for free digital set-top boxes.

This will allow them to keep on watching free-to-air television channels, when the nation pulls the plug on analogue broadcasting in 2020.

Yesterday, the Media Development Authority (MDA) launched an official assistance scheme, which will see MDA-appointed telco M1 installing the boxes and antennae needed to receive digital signals.

A typical digital set-top box and antenna currently retail for about $130, but the bill will be picked up by the Government.

"It is important that no one is left behind in this effort because once we roll over to digital with Singapore fully covered, we will switch off analogue (transmission)", said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim at the scheme's launch in Clementi yesterday.

"Free-to-air TV is a very important communication (tool) for the Government," he added.

SingTel and StarHub pay-TV subscribers, who form six in 10 households here, do not need to do anything to prepare for the switch as their platforms are already digital.

Those who will get automatic assistance include people living in one- or two-room rental flats, or those on ComCare or self-help groups' assistance schemes. The monthly household income has to be $1,900 and below.

For a start, 24,000 households will be notified by mail over the next few days.

The Digital TV Assistance Scheme will also be extended to other households that have no pay-TV subscription or integrated digital television, and have a monthly household income of $1,900 and below. But they need to apply to MDA to be included.

For households with no income to qualify, the property must have an annual value of $13,000 or lower, and at least one family member must be a citizen.

Breathing a sigh of relief at the news is 85-year-old Chua Mui Chian, who lives alone in a two-room rented flat in Clementi.

The retiree spends much of his leisure time watching television.

"Without the Government's help, I wouldn't know how to continue receiving TV signals when the switchover takes place," said Mr Chua in Teochew.

Digital transmission allows broadcasters to send signals more efficiently, giving viewers better-quality images and sound, among other benefits.

MediaCorp is rolling out its digital broadcasting infrastructure here in phases.

So far, households in seven estates - Bukit Batok, Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East, Clementi, Bukit Timah, Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang South - can tune in to digital content.

itham@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sept 30, 2014.
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