Singapore, 6 August 2003 - StarHub Cable Vision (SCV) announced today that it would take appropriate action to curb the increasing sale of unauthorised decoders, or more commonly known as unauthorised set-top boxes, in Singapore.
SCV offers 41 quality channels of the latest news, movies, entertainment, sports and education on its pay-TV service, known as StarHub CableTV. SCV works with content providers to transmit these channels via its network.
Local consumers who are interested in viewing the quality programmes need to subscribe to StarHub CableTV. The affordable StarHub CableTV subscription packages can be as low as 70 cents a day. Each subscription package includes the usage of decoders manufactured by top-of-the-line provider, Motorola, at no additional charge. These decoders undergo stringent tests before they are allocated to customers.
However, SCV has learnt that there are unauthorised dealers in Singapore illegally selling various makes of decoders that can unscramble the programming in its channels. It is a criminal offence to sell, import or manufacture unauthorised decoders. It is also against the law for consumers to tap into SCV's network using these unauthorised decoders, with the intention to intercept and receive the programming signals without authorisation.
"SCV and its content providers take a serious view of this problem, and are working together to quickly seek redress under the law," said Ms Sandie Lee, StarHub's Vice President for Programming. "Dealers of these unauthorised decoders are acting against the law. We would like the public to advise the public not to deal with or purchase such unauthorised decoders and to respect the law and intellectual property rights."
Said Mr Rik Dovey, Managing Director, ESPN STAR Sports (ESS), "We support any action taken by SCV to safeguard the distribution of channels on its platform. Clearly, the media industry as a whole is undercut when the investment of programming content is leaked through unlawful chains of distribution such as this. It's safe to say that the long-term need to protect consumers' rights to more choice is as critical as the right of the content provider and its pay-TV partner to protect the investment made to bring quality programming to viewers." ESS is one of SCV's channel partners and runs ESPN (Ch 23) and Star Sports (Ch 24).
Another channel partner, HBO Asia, which operates both movie channels - Cinemax (Ch 59) and HBO (Ch 60), is also supportive of SCV's move. "HBO Asia supports SCV in its fight against cable piracy. Using a pirated decoder to receive programming is tantamount to stealing and we urge the public not to purchase or use pirated decoders. The theft of intellectual property hurts everyone, from programmers to cable operators, and even the viewing public. We are confident that the public will stop patronising the pirates once they realise that piracy is theft," said Mr James Marturano, Executive Vice President, HBO Asia.
SCV has been monitoring the situation closely and will take steps to protect its rights, and the rights of its content providers. From 6pm today, SCV will render unauthorised decoders ineffective in detecting its more popular channels such as the Sports and Movies channels. Instead of the crystal clear reception enjoyed by StarHub CableTV subscribers, users of unauthorised decoders will see wavy and distorted images. SCV will render unauthorised decoders ineffective in detecting the rest of its channels in the near future.
Ms Lee added, "As these unauthorised decoders are not made available through SCV, members of the public who purchase these decoders are doing so at their own risk. SCV will be deploying new technology to render these unauthorised decoders ineffective. This means that while these unauthorised decoders may work to varying degrees for now, it is highly unlikely that they will work in the near future."
Commenting on the action to be taken by SCV, Mr Toh Yong Chuan, Deputy Director (Corporate Communications), Media Development Authority (MDA), said, "Piracy stymies innovation and sets us back in our efforts to develop Singapore into an IPR hub and a global media city. MDA fully supports SCV's effort in dealing with the piracy of its signals and we will continue to support such industry efforts."
The sale of unauthorised decoders is not unique to Singapore. The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), a regional body representing the interests of 125 companies engaged in the pay-TV industry, including SCV and all the major pay-TV broadcasters such as HBO Asia, Discovery Networks, STAR Group and ESPN STAR Sports, tracks the impact of pay-TV piracy in jurisdictions across Asia.
"If the problem is not stopped at source it removes the underpinnings of all our businesses and can impact the entire entertainment industry. If it takes hold in any particular market, pay-TV piracy can come close to wiping out the entire business case for programme makers and distributors," said Mr Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA.
CASBAA recently successfully led seven private prosecutions of traders in unauthorised equipment in Hong Kong where the High Court found in the plaintiff's favour.
The cable TV business is a capital-intensive one. SCV has invested $600 million into cabling up the entire island with its state-of-the-art infrastructure. It also continually invests in comprehensive quality checks, maintenance and upgrades for its network to ensure that it delivers a good, reliable service to customers. SCV has recently made additional investments to introduce digital cable services later this year.
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