Television in Singapore began on 15 February 1963. The public broadcaster, MediaCorp TV, has a monopoly on terrestrial television channels and is fully owned by government holding company Temasek Holdings. Local pay TV operators are StarHub TV and Singtel TV. The private ownership of satellite dishes is banned.
Singapore households also have a high rate of TV penetration.
At 6pm on Friday, 15 February 1963, a pilot television broadcasting service began in Singapore with a broadcast that lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. After the image of the state flag and the playing of the national anthem, Majulah Singapura, then-Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam became the first person to appear on Singapore TV, announcing that "Tonight might well mark the start of a social and cultural revolution in our lives." Following his speech, the first programme televised in Singapore was a 15-minute documentary produced by Television Singapura called TV Looks at Singapore. It was followed by two cartoons, a news report and newsreel, a comedy show and a local variety show.
At the time, it was estimated that only one in 58 persons in Singapore owned a TV set, and the pilot service offered only one hour of broadcasting per day on Channel 5 (now known as MediaCorp Channel 5). On 2 April 1963, President Yusof Ishak officially inaugurated the regular service of Television Singapura. It started off broadcasting from 7.15 pm to 11.15 pm every day, showing programmes in Singapore's four official languages (English, Mandarin [including other Chinese dialects], Malay and Tamil). On 23 November 1963, a second channel, Channel 8 (now known as MediaCorp Channel 8) was inaugurated. It took over Chinese and Tamil programming, while English and Malay programming remained on Channel 5. Both channels aired during the brief time Singapore was a state of Malaysia from that year to 9 August 1965, airing together with today's Radio Televisyen Malaysia (TV Malaysia at that time) then from the Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur areas. From that day of independence when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressed Singaporeans on the inevitable independence, both channels became the national TV stations and later formed the TV Division of Radio Television Singapore (RTS).
From 31 January 1967, Channel 8 also became home to the Educational Television Service, which showed TV programmes produced by the Ministry of Education on school subjects at different educational levels and in different languages, in which they later transferred them to Channel 12 in 1993.
On 7 July 1974, colour TV made its debut in Singapore when the live-broadcast of the finals of the 1974 FIFA World Cup (between West Germany and The Netherlands), narrated by Brian Richmond, was displayed in colour. About 2,000 colour TV sets were sold in Singapore three days before the match. Almost a month later, the Singapore National Day Parade (held at Padang) was broadcast in colour for the first time in all four languages.
From 1 July 1978, in line with the introduction of the Singapore government's Speak Mandarin Campaign, skits and advertisements on TV no longer used Chinese dialects. In November, the Hong Kong drama Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre ( or Yee Tin To Long Kei) became the first programme in Chinese dialect to be dubbed in Mandarin before its Singaporean broadcast.
With effect from 1 February 1980, Radio and Television Singapore, which was under the Ministry of Culture (now as Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth), was partially privatised by an Act of Parliament and was relaunched as Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), with a new corporate log while retaining a virtual monopoly on television programming in Singapore. In 1983, it introduced SBCText, a teletext service providing regularly updated information on the news, weather, travel, sports, shopping, leisure and entertainment. In 1984, a third free-to-air TV channel, Channel 12, which would focus on serious, "heavy" cultural and educational programming, was introduced.
After almost four years since the start of the Speak Mandarin Program, in-lieu of the campaign, SBC 8 produced its first-ever full-length local Mandarin drama titled Seletar Robbery on 12 December, which would become one of the pioneer Chinese dramas to be produced and aired in the channel (past productions had been miniseries and dramas imported from Hong Kong which were redubbed in Mandarin). In 1984, The Awakening was produced in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of self-governance status in Singapore. By 1994, Channel 5 would follow suit with its first English-language drama.
On 27 February 1988, SBC held its first Star Search competition to bring new faces into the broadcast entertainment industry. Zoe Tay won the first competition and went on to become one of the biggest television celebrities in Singapore. On 26 February 1994, SBC held the first Star Awards ceremony (?) to recognise Singapore's television talents. In that first year, the only awards given out were ten Most Popular Male and Female Artistes awards and the Most Popular Newcomer award; it has been held in December for the first 13 ceremonies before changing its date to April from the 2009 ceremony onwards.
By 1990 (the Silver Jubilee of Singapore's Independence), all SBC channels began to air in stereo sound, in time for the closing activities of the jubilee commemorations nationwide.
On 1 October 1994, the SBC was privatised, and Singapore International Media group was divided into three separate companies, which include Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS), Radio Corporation of Singapore (RCS) and Singapore Television Twelve (STV12). In September 1995, 24-hour transmission for English and Mandarin programmes were launched for Channels 5 and 8 respectively, while Channel 12 was rebranded to Prime 12 (specialized for Malay, Tamil and Foreign-language programming) and Premiere 12 (specialized for arts, children's and sports programming).
On 1 March 1999, Channel NewsAsia was launched as Singapore's first dedicated news channel. Initially regional, but later went international since 2001. In September of the same year, TCS underwent a corporate restructuring and became Media Corporation of Singapore (commonly known as MediaCorp Singapore).
On 30 January 2000, Prime 12 and Premiere 12 were respectively replaced by Suria (which means "sun" or "sunlight" in Malay, specialized for Malay programmes) and Central. Central had three distinctive programming timing belts catering for different audiences, namely Kids Central (morning to evening time, specialized for children programmes), Vasantham Central (afternoon to evening time slot specialized for Tamil programmes) and Arts Central (evening to night time slot).
In 2001, the Singapore government allowed Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to offer competition in the television broadcasting sector, which led to the formation of the subsidiary company, SPH MediaWorks, on 6 May. Two free-to-air channels, TVWorks (later renamed Channel i) and Channel U, with English and Chinese programming respectively, were also launched.
However, in late 2004, SPH agreed its merger terms (mass-market television and free newspaper operations) with MediaCorp due to lack of commercial branding and competition, and thus formed MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which comprises MediaCorp Studios and all TV channels operated by both companies except Channel i, which ceased transmission on 1 January 2005.
On 19 October 2008, Central ceased its broadcast and was split into two different channels: Vasantham (Vasantham means "spring" in Tamil) was formed from Vasantham Central as a full-fledged free-to-air Tamil language channel along with South Asian languages, and okto (pronounced as 'octo' and a wordplay of "OK to"), formed from a merger of Kids Central and Arts Central; on June 2014, a sports timebelt specially catered for sports programming, oktosports, was launched.
In 1992, Singapore's first pay TV company, Singapore Cable Vision (SCV), began offering news and entertainment channels, while progressively rolling out the construction of its cable TV network across Singapore. The network was completed in 1999. SCV had about 1,500 subscribers in 1992 and became a standard practice for StarHub users. StarHub also have different package for their fibre internet service. On 1 October 2002, Singapore Cable Vision merged with Singapore telecommunications company Starhub to create StarHub Cable Vision, a pay TV service with more than 40 international channels of news, movies, entertainment, sports, music and education. The service has been known as StarHub TV since 2007.
On 20 July 2007, telecommunications provider SingTel began offering a digital pay TV service, Singtel TV, through its broadband network. The Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) had 26 channels, including on-demand channels.
On 1 November 2018, StarHub announced that cable televisions will be ceased after 30 June 2019.
In 2006, MOBTV (MediaCorp Online Broadband Television) was launched as MediaCorp's first subscription-based video on demand service that provides viewers with access to various TV programmes via immediate digital streaming or download from an Internet connection. MOBTV ceased its operation in on 30 March 2010 while its services was merged to another website, xinmsn, a joint-venture between MediaCorp and MSN Singapore, which was launched earlier that month, while the rest was rebranded to SingTel mio TV under MobTV Select in 2012 until 7 January 2014 (the MobTV Select were pulled from SingTel TV on 8 October as well). However, other applications, such as StarHub GO, SingTel TV GO, and Dash, were also launched in-lieu of the closure.
In 2013, a third Internet television website, Toggle, was launched, also providing a wide array of drama and programs for the viewers online. The widespread success of the website and Internet television had resulted in MobTV and xinmsn websites to close on June 2014 and April 2015, respectively. Since its website's success, in 2014, a selected series of Smart TVs had been equipped with Toggle Red Button to increase the trend of Internet television.
Analogue television has been declining since the introduction of HD and Internet televisions. In 2013, all of the MediaCorp channels had begun broadcasting in digital.
Around 90% of the Singapore homes (with islandwide 100% digital reception) have been converted to digital television with DVB-T2 set-top box, DVB-T set-top box, pre-installed DVB-T2 and DVB-T televisions, StarHub TV and SingTel TV. Massive conversion to digital cable television began in 2007 and ended in 2010, which had encouraged StarHub users to convert to fully digital. Some of them had bought DVB-T2 set-top boxes as it will be 'slow ring' of upgrades. Televisions that are manufactured after October 2013 are pre-installed with DVB-T2 format.
After a successful trial conducted by MediaCorp, which involved some 500 households in Ang Mo Kio and Bedok estates, showed that DVB-T2 was suitable for deployment in Singapore's urbanised environment, the DVB-T2 standard was then adopted, with improvement on efficiency, robustness and flexibility, and enabling efficient use of valuable terrestrial spectrum for the delivery of audio, video and data services to fixed, portable and mobile devices.
In 2016, in a Parliament statement addressed by then-Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, it was announced that analogue television would cease its broadcast by the end of 2017 and MediaCorp TV channels will be broadcast in digital only.
On 6 November 2017, at the time a majority of households had yet to switch to digital television on the intended deadline by the end of 2017, the Info-communications Media Development Authority announced that the termination of the analogue television would be delayed as the closing date was pushed to 31 December 2018. On the same day, an "analogue" watermark was placed on the channel logo below to differentiate the channels.
On 17 September 2018, screens for all the analogue channels are shrunk to top-left corner, while the remaining space was placed with reminders and warning to viewers to change to digital television. Later on 21 December 2018, IMDA announced the date was extended by one more day until 2 January 2019.
On 20 February 2019, it was announced that okto would be merged with Channel 5 effective on 1 May. Its frequency used by okto will be returned to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) after the integration of Channel 5 and okto.
Due to Singapore size and proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, Singaporeans, especially those very close to those countries' respective borders are able to enjoy a variety of TV programmes from the following neighbouring countries which are broadcasting on UHF bands:
Viewers farther away from the Indonesia or Malaysia border usually require higher-quality equipment to receive the signals. In spite of this however, only TV1 and TVRI are carried on StarHub TV and RTM TV1 will be Launching Soon in Singapore via Singtel TV. Moreover, catch up TV services available on those channels' websites are now completely accessible in Singapore, only for local programming.