Friday, December 18, 2009

Who is the first pay TV operator in Singapore?

Who is the first pay TV operator in Singapore?

No, it is not the present Starhub Cablevision(SCV). The first pay TV operator is the then SBC (now MediaCorp). In 1992 SBC ran three subscription TV channels on the UHF band. An engineer from SBC Chang Long Kiat was the first CEO. It operated through a company known as Singapore CableVision(SCV) owned by SBC. The three channels were Newsvision, MovieVision and VarietyVision. Newsvision was a mainly CNN channel with local news and news from UK. MovieVision contained movies from HBO and VarietyVision featured mainly Chinese drama, movies, documentaries from HK, Taiwan and Japan. A TV antenna and a SCV set-top were required and bundled into the services if a viewer paid for all three channels. The rational from offering this service was the need to offer more channels for Singaporeans and expatriates in view of the clamouring for direct satellite services and demand for information. The urgency was triggered by comments that the Gulf war was imminent when viewers saw the grim face of President Bush whilst walking out of a crucial meeting. Millions over the world where CNN was available especially businessmen watched this news clip and made their business decisions accordingly.
SBC took on the challenge to start the first pay TV service in Singapore..and with a view to also operate a cable network. I together two other officials were sent to US to study cable TV operations. Singtel and SBC undertook feasibility study calling for consultants to make proposals. More than five international consultants responded. Eventually Continental CableVision USA was selectd. Engineers from Singtel and SBC assisted in the design of the hybrid-coaxial network which remained in use to this day. When the cable licence was issued in 1995, SPH . ST Ventures, Continental Vision and SIM (which was then a holding company for a restructured SBC) owned SBC. The operations of Singapore CableVision was passed over to engineers mainly from the ST Group together with the running of the three UHF subscription services. In 1998 Starhub Pte the second telecoms operator was formed and 2002 Starhub merged with SCV. SCV then was renamed Starhub Cable Vision (SCV). Randall Coleman from Continental Vision USA was the first CEO and Khaw Boon Wan chairman of SCV.
Continental Vision divested its shares later on to the other shareholders… and the new owners were SPH 26.7%, MediaCorp 41.3% and ST Telecom 32%. (this position has changed over the years)
SCV now carries all the free- to- air channels on analogue and digital cable. For the digital services, a SCV set top box is required to receive MediaCorp channels.
It had been a good experience for me to be involved in this project in the early days ie from the technology perspective. There were high hopes then that engineers from MediaCorp would operate the cable network. But this was not to be. It is one of the disappointments of my career....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

If Trees Could Talk......

If Trees Could Talk….…memories wll come alive. And the stories they tell we'll know our heritage better.

I can imagine what stories the trees on Caldecott Hill tell if they could talk. Here is some interesting information on some trees ( with a quiz)

We are a cluster of old trees near the former street scene and next to the old canteen and broadcasting house. I think one of us is at least 75 years old when Radio started and the others are probably 10 years younger. Many had come by us to the canteen and many drama artistes enjoyed the shades during filming at the old street scenes. Perhaps you can see me in some of the archive pictures of old broadcasting house during the launch of television services when an OB van was parked next to us..or archive recordings of the fire that destroyed the record library a few meters away from us. Thank goodness we are still alive! You can find our kind at many places on the island as we are in the class of the heritage trees in Singapore. I think we will make it to the top 10 in Nparks campaign on the Top Ten Trees in Singapore.

We were planted during the 80s when RTS rolled over to SBC. The Management decided to upgrade the slope with greenery including a nursery nearby. I don’t think many people notice us as we are not shady. We are just there to soften the hard environment between OBH and the new radio and TV building. Staff come and go at the entrance nearby. It is also the exit and entrance for busloads of our artises and extras that go out for filming. We notice those beautiful people (Zoe , Fann , Eileen, Wenyong) in beautiful costumes that walk pass us daily after their make-up at the OBH.

I was rooted when the first satellite dish was built..which brought live news to our news bulletin on channel 5 and 8 then. And I am situated near the TV building entrance where VIP alights on their way to the TV studios. The land which I stand now was vacant land during the time when Lee Kuan Yew opened the black and white TV service in a ceremony at the entrance of the TV building. Now the place is clusterd with a number of different species of trees. It is a place where producers will do their outdoor shooting when time is short. Many can be found near the entrance of the Singapore Botanic Garden

Perhaps the biggest pride of Caldecott Hill is the beautiful entrance to the TV reception. I mean all of us line up in straight line and look majestic and tall with the MediaCorp signage next to it. It is nice to hear that we give out fresh air for the humans and beautify the compound. The whole concept of this scenic entrance is work of the ExCo chaired by the then boss Cheng Tong Fatt. It is said that Albert Hong contributed the idea of us being installed there to look nice and beautiful for the visitors . But we not sure that we were there because of complaints by the neighbours that the TV building did not gel with the high-class bungalows nearby.

I am part of a landscaping done in 1985 or so next to the Management Carpark. There are about 10 different types of plants in this location I guess you can say I am the most outstanding there. The CEO’s car (Cheok Yew, Hup Seng, Ernest Wong and now Lucas) would inevitably glance at me on their way to their office.

We can be seen on this short clip at video. Please watch this clip and send the names of 10 trees on this video to The first email that has the answers will get a prize.

For info, Nparks has launched the know 10 trees of Singapore movement. Please click here for details.

If Trees Could Talk.....