Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Fifa Tango

Perform Group who? Well, this name may be welcome music to football hungry people in Singapore. Just when Singaporeans face the increasingly likelihood of not being able to watch 'live' telecast of all 64 matches of the Football World Cup in June 2010, along comes this company that says that it can stream all these matches, but via the Internet. It further boasts that the streaming will be of good quality  as it has had experience streaming the Australian Open Tennis competitions and others sports competitions. Well, it wouldn't be free. It is likely going to be pay-per-view deal, with prices like S$11 / S$12 dollars per match being quoted based on its past broadcasts.

If this happens, it'll be great for people who use their computers often, and also for those who can hook up their computers to their LCD TV sets. But the quality will not be as good though, depending on your Internet connection bandwidth, and your PC. Even with the Next Generation Broadband (NGB), which is not available to most Singapore households yet, it cannot match Starhub's dedicated infrastructure. So yes, the option will be there, but the experience may not. Internet speeds are only as fast as the connections across the internet network, which may pass through shared undersea and overland cables and various machines hosting the IPs along the same network.No one can determine the exact path that an internet connection passes through, even if you have a million dollars.

The question that must be asked is; why is Fifa willing to do a deal with this London-based company and allow the Worldcup matches to be accessible to Singapore when they will not back down on the reported S$40m they are demanding from Singtel/Starhub? It is not as if Performance Group's technology is out of this world, cutting edge or anything. Why let a foreign company profit from this business and deprive Singtel/Starhub? If all this is true, then Fifa's discriminatory pricing and predatory practices are not only reprehensible, they are puzzling also. Just because Singtel paid an arm and a leg for the rights to the BPL matches doesn't mean that it can levy the same or more for the Worldcup matches. Whether Singtel makes a profit or loss from this BPL deal isn't even certain and anyway, it is their business, not Fifa's.

What is the relationship between Performance Group and Football Media Services, which is the exclusive sales representative for Fifa in Asia? If Performance Group is given the business, then Football Media becomes a real joke. It levies astronomical sums on Asian businesses but gives the same to a London business entity (read: non-Asian business) for a song? This whole Fifa farce has gone on long enough. I pity that Singtel, Starhub and Mediacorp have been hoodwinked into dancing the ultra-expensive Fifa tango. It is sad that Fifa can act in such unprincipled and monopolistic manner, if my analysis of this whole Performance-Fifa shenanigan is correct.

Singtel/Starhub may have been taken for an expensive ride, but lets not have the same happen to all football loving Singaporeans.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Religious fear

Someone reputable made the observation that a Google search on the word "Christianity" will throw up results such as "Is Christianity Absurd?" and "Christianity is Stupid" on the first page of the search results. On the other hand, when 'Islam' is searched, no such negative search results are returned. He speculated that Google might be filtering the results in the fear of offending Muslims.

The sad thing is that everyone is afraid of offending Muslims and Islam. In Singapore, for example, McDonalds' ongoing promotion campaign has replaced the pig in the Chinese Zodiac with an angel (Cupid) for fear of offending Muslims. Muslims consider pigs as unclean and forbids its consumption. Another potentially fatal example is the firebombing of churches in Malaysia - all because the Malaysia High Court ruled that religions other than Islam (i.e. Christianity) have the rights to use the word 'Allah' to refer to God. This is Malaysian Law. Apparently, Muslims in Malaysia do not believe in their own laws. And examples in other lands abound, where people are afraid of offending Muslims in any slight way because of the possibility of reprisals, which may include the loss of innocent lives  and limps. The only people who are not cowed are Danish cartoonist who dare to defy the disciples of Muhammad and are paying for their stance, just as Salman Rushdie did many many years ago.

It is really really sad, that terrorism is now synonymous with Islam. And it is really really sad that an angel had to step in to protect McDonalds. After all McDonalds is a major American institution. Its fear would appear to be well founded given that anything American, wherever it is, is a favourite target of Muslim extremist terrorists. Sure Singapore is pretty ok as far as security goes. We book anyone breaking the law and protect the innocent. For that matter, we throw highly suspicious people behind bars anyway, without due process. And our secret service is usually tip top identifying threats and putting would-be perpetrators behind bars. But there is no stopping people bombing McDonalds elsewhere because of what McDonalds Singapore does, or does not do.

It is really really sad.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Juvenile 2

I wonder why, of late, government or government-related agencies and organisations are becoming so juvenile? First there was Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) contribution to the Singapore Pavilion at this year's Shanghai World Expo - Liu Lian Xiao Xing, or Durian Star - a totally juvenile contribution. So much so that I speculated that STB had an extremely small budget, so smaller that it could only engage a juvenile (who else) to come up with the drawing. Now, there is the equally juvenile but more sinister act of vandalising the much venerated Singpost mailboxes, with the total blessing of no less than Singpost itself. This cause such an uproar that I got to learn of it on the printed and broadcast press and the internet. Otherwise, I would be non the wiser because only 6 of these mailboxes were deliberately vandalised, none of which were located near where I lived.

One wonders if Singapore is not going overboard in celebrating its youth (Youth Olympics, youthful swimming champs from the SEA Games, etc. etc.) that even government agencies, once the bastion of propriety, order and seriousness, have surrendered its top executive minds to juveniles. If so, that is a abdication of responsibility for which taxpayers ultimately foot the bill - these executives' pay, the police's pay and the cost to societal peace. Somebody in SingPost should probably resign to take responsibility for this serious and negligent oversight, for we, the tax-paying public expect more of people in such high places. Merely organising a press conference to explain and apologize may not be enough. But of course, this is not the Singapore culture - it will happen in Japan, and maybe in the US, but Singapore officials are apparently a protected lot. Well, ok, let me not be-labour this because somebody's rice bowl is on the line...

But, much as our young should step out to learn and lead, the older among us should not surrender our prerogative to guard against ill-conceived ideas.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Time to go

I marvel at Mr Loh Lin Kok, erstwhile President of the Singapore Athletics Association (SAA). But I don't envy him. It is amazing that this man is taking such an nonchalant attitude towards it woefully underachieving group of athletes under the SAA umbrella - the biggest and probably the only group that brings together the athletic fraternity in Singapore. That he has been at the helm since 1982 without being challenged is also damning of the more capable athletes who should have stepped up to the plate to dislodge a President that has presided over the steady decline of athletics over the last 28 years. It had to take a crisis, such as their failure in the just concluded SEA games in Laos, for someone to step up to the plate to challenge his almost uninterrupted reign at a key national athletics body. Only 2 golds were won, with one coming from an ageing athlete.

Personally, I thought Mr Loh should have stepped aside voluntarily ages ago, or at least made a real effort to find someone more capable than himself to take over. But his heck-care attitude, and derisive stance, even in the face of auditors findings of serious lapses in the way the Association has been run just demonstrates why athletics has slid so far. He ridicules the Singapore Sports Council (SCC) and anyone else who tries to help, and he always blames the SCC for withholding its funding, but seems to forget that this money comes from the taxpayer. He seem to imply that the SAA is entitled to this money, but I think the SCC has done right in demanding more accountability towards the use of public funds. Looking at Loh's behaviour, I, as a taxpayer, wouldn't even trust one cent of my money to his management of it in the SAA. Who cares if you have put out your own money for entertainment and the like on behalf of the SAA? SAA doesn't belong to you, Mr Loh. It is not your personal fiefdom. If Mr Loh wants to boast about his generosity and self-sacrifice, then let him really be generous - don't put those money he has spent on SAA's books. The man cannot see where he may be wrong. He doesn't know how 'shame' is spelled.

Mr Loh, it is time to call time and fade into the sunset. Otherwise, you will likely get booted out, which is already too kind a gesture for your mismanagement of athletics in Singapore.

P.S. I don't know Mr Loh personally, nor am I an athlete. Whatever views and opinion expressed here has been formed from various local media reports. I am just an interested Singaporean who is concerned about Singapore athletics.