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Extract from IMDA Media Release
16 March 2016 - The Media Development Authority (MDA) has finalised its recommendations to enhance pay-TV consumer protection measures under the Media Market Conduct
The Media Development Authority (MDA) has finalised its recommendations to enhance pay-TV consumer protection measures under the Media Market Conduct Code.
These measures aim to address three key consumer concerns namely, unilateral contract changes, forced upgrades of non pay-TV services and the lack of awareness of the terms and conditions of contracts.
MDA's recommendations were finalised following careful consideration of the feedback received from the public consultation  held from September to November 2014.
MDA received a total of 39 written responses  from pay-TV operators, content providers, consumer and industry associations, and members of the public. To facilitate participation, seven focus group sessions were also conducted with members of the public. In addition, MDA engaged industry bodies such as The Consumers Association of Singapore directly to seek their feedback on the recommendations.
Key changes to the Media Market Conduct Code
MDA carefully considered the feedback received from the industry and public, and refined some of its initial proposals to better balance consumer and industry interests. The key recommendations and the changes are:
Unilateral contract variations: MDA will require pay-TV operators to allow consumers to exit fixed term contracts without paying Early Termination Charges (ETCs) if unilateral changes by the operators are detrimental to subscribers due to a/an:
Increase in subscription fee;
Removal of material channel/s;
Removal of material sports content within a channel  ; and/or
Removal of at least 20 percent  of total number of channels in entire pay-TV service since the point of subscription
MDA had initially proposed to allow consumers to exit without ETCs when any channel or material content is removed. This proposal was refined as MDA recognises the need to provide the industry with some flexibility to innovate in their content offerings, while safeguarding consumers against detriment arising from unilateral contract changes.
In view of the narrowed scope, MDA introduced a new requirement for pay-TV operators to provide options of 12-month or shorter contract term for all packages or bundles . This will give consumers the option of going for shorter contracts if they are uncomfortable with entering into a long term commitment.
MDA had also initially proposed to allow pay-TV operators to charge ETCs if they take mitigating actions such as reducing subscription fees when channels or content is removed. MDA will not proceed with this recommendation following feedback from both the consumers and industry players that they do not find such mitigating factors effective or practical to implement.
MDA's other recommendations in the area of unilateral contract variations remain unchanged. These are:
Consumers are allowed to exit without ETCs no later than 30 days from the date of change
Operators are allowed to charge ETCs for equipment not essential to the provision of the service, such as for laptops and tablets, subject to certain conditions such as the determination of the retail price of such equipment being not excessive.
Forced upgrade of non pay-TV services: MDA will proceed with its initial recommendation to disallow operators from forcing subscribers to upgrade their non pay-TV services (such as broadband or phone service contracts) to make changes to their pay-TV services.
However, operators are allowed to offer such upgrades as options for their consumers' consideration.
Lack of awareness of important terms and conditions of service: MDA will also retain its initial proposal for ensuring consumers are better informed on the terms and conditions of their pay-TV contracts.
MDA will additionally require pay-TV operators to provide consumers with a critical information summary (CIS) highlighting the important terms and conditions in a clear and accurate manner.
Pay-TV operators are also required to provide consumers with a written copy of the contract and CIS within 14 days of contracting. They would also need to retain consumers' confirmation on having understood these contract terms.
To facilitate the enforcement and investigations, MDA will require pay-TV operators to retain records of their marketing materials and details of agreement for two years and to supply such materials upon request. The retention period was reduced from three to two years in view that the maximum contract term allowed for pay TV services is only two years.
MDA will retain its initial recommendation to require operators to obtain consumers' consent to continue with the trial or complimentary service, before they can start charging.
These proposals are expected to take effect in April 2016.
Click here for details of the changes to the MMCC and feedback received.
The news release on the launch of this public consultation on 24 September 2014 can be foundhere.
The following organisations had submitted written responses to MDA: StarHub, SingNet, M1, Discovery, FOX International Channels, Viacom International Media Networks, Consumer Association of Singapore, and Cable Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.
Pay-TV operators will be excluded from this provision if they state upfront the availability period of material sports content to consumers.
If a consumer is subscribed to basic pack (10 channels), with add-on pack A (4 channels) and add-on pack B (6 channels), the 20 percent is calculated based on the total number of channels (ie: 20) in the entire pay-TV service. If the pay-TV operator added in 3 new channels since the consumer's subscription, and removed 5 channels subsequently, this would be considered a nett removal of 2 channels.
Applies to packages or bundles with contract terms of more than 12 months.
We are still in negotiations with Discovery and seek your patience and understanding. We understand the impact that the discontinuation of the channels may have on you, should both parties be unable to come to an agreement. Please stay tuned for more announcements.
I am on Starhub cable TV since Day 1 coming from SCV.The channels i watch often are Discovery and Eurosport. I watch Discovery for documentary and Eurosport for my Badminton and Figure skating competitions.without the channels what is the purpose of continuing Starhub .The alternative channels are not the solutions .I plan to end my contract once expires as there is no reason to continue.Starhub may think there are not many of us watching those channels thus no a big deal.But for me.this is a big deal
Yes it is true that Discovery Suite of programs are pretty much irreplaceable. But if Discovery's producers keep making "Docu dramas" and "Pseudo Science" series, costs will keep going up and customers have to keep on paying more. Personally for me, there will come a time in the future when I will choose a service provider with Broadband services only and switch to Internet viewing.
Natgeo is not a good alternative. I mean, how many times can one watch a Baboon or a Lion lick each other's butt?? I know Natgeo makes other documentaries, I was on Singtel once and I was bored to death.
So that means we should cancel our subscription and switch over to Singtel?
When we customers signed up with Starhub, we have a few particular channels which they want to watch. So now that the channels will be removed, does this means that Starhub should offer us a waiver to cancel our subscription contract without penalty?
With channels like HGTV, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Discovery Travel and Food Network Asia going, we can't help but feel short-changed.
Looking forward to your best solution instead of offering alternative channels which may not be what the consumers want. Either let the channels remain or let us get out for free.
U all can always cut out other less popular channels like E!, Blue Ant. There are also so many less popular channels to consider in the Chinese and Indian packages.
U can always raise the education package subscription for new contract if there is no other choice.
But please don't take out discovery networks channels, otherwise it is better you close the whole education package.
The extra cost is only about a cup of coffee a month per customer according to discovery networks, is this so hard for you guys?
The news coming out of Discovery Networks is "STARHUB are not willing to pay a fair price for their 11 channels".
Starhubs claim is that looking after their customers is paramount.
So where is the communication from Starhub, to its customers, telling us of the implications of the Discovery Networks price increase?
I would like to be consulted on what the price increase would mean to me, the customer? It may be that we might be asked for another $5 a month, which for most might be a better solution than losing the channels.
Can Starhub let us know what the cost implication would be and then make a decision, not make a decision without talking to its loyal subscribers first. It's not really Starhub's decision to make, is it?
QUOTE from Nikkei Asian Review.
"Although StarHub assured its TV subscribers that it is still "in renewal negotiations" with Discovery and is doing "everything possible to arrive at a deal," the telecom has also informed customers that it would stop carrying 11 channels under Discovery. Seven are to end on June 30, and another four by Aug. 31.
StarHub's share price has suffered, hitting an almost nine-year low after the news was revealed. The stock closed 3.5% lower at 1.93 Singapore dollars on Thursday.
Starhub has lost almost 20% of its customer base over the past nine quarters and S$40 million in video revenue," said Vivek Couto, executive director of research firm Media Partners Asia. He noted that the issue also "highlights the lack of unity between operators and content providers."
Well said, wurlitzer.
But if SH were to increase $5/mth, its customers will have other things to say eg why starhub cannot absorb? SH is a blood sucking telco etc etc.
So you cant please everybody in this case.
But ceasing broadcast of Discovering network definetely doesnt go down well.
Me and my wife, for one, watch HGTV, FYI and Food Network ALL THE TIME.
But seems like SH is the one playing the hard ball here imo.
You're right Vanngoh, it would open up another issue and I would disagree with those who say SH should absorb the cost. They are a commercial operation and are entitled to make a profit.
As you you realised, my point was SH customers should be given the choice and informed "that due to an increase by the provider the monthly sub needs to rise". At least we can then make the choice, pay it or drop the channels, at the moment SH are acting without consulting us, is it they actually don't care about us?
If it's put to subcribers and there is a big backlash, SH then have a weapon to use against Discovery, i.e. "we put it to our subscribers and 90% won't accept the increase so they will drop your channel." Or "Our subscribers have laregely accepted the price incease". In the first case the ball is back in Discoveries court, they can insist on the increase and lose most subscribers (in which case SH would drop the channel totally) or Discovery can relent.
At the moment we hve two big players banging heads without bothering to find out what the subscrbers will acept, or won't.