At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 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, the 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 everyday, 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 PM Lee Kwan Yew addressed Singaporeans on the inevitable independence both channels became the national TV stations and would later form 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 World Cup soccer final match between West Germany and Holland was broadcast ‘live’ and in colour. The broadcast was hosted by Brian Richmond. About 2,000 colour TV sets were sold in Singapore three days before the match. Almost a month had passed when on 9 August the Singapore National Day Parade was aired from the Padang live and 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 (倚天屠龙记 or Yee Tin To Long Kei) became the first programme in Chinese dialect to be dubbed in Mandarin before being broadcast in Singapore.
With effect from 1 February 1980, Radio and Television Singapore, which was under the Ministry of Culture, was partially privatised by an Act of Parliament and was relaunched as Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), with a new corporate logo. It retained 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, it added a third free-to-air TV channel, Channel 12, which would focus on serious, “heavy” cultural and educational programming.
After 4 years since the start of the Speak Mandarin Program, in line with this campaign SBC 8 officially in 1982 made its very first local Mandarin drama. It would be the first of many to be produced and aired in the channel.
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 (红星大奖) 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.
By 1990, as Singapore marked its Silver Jubilee, all SBC channels began to air in stereo sound, in time for the closing activities of the jubilee commemorations nationwide.
On 1 October 1994, SBC was privatised, and the Singapore International Media group of companies was formed in its place. This included Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS), Radio Corporation of Singapore (RCS) and Singapore Television Twelve (STV12). From September 1995, TCS's Channels 5 and 8 began offering 24-hour transmission of English and Mandarin programmes respectively, while Channel 12 was relaunched as Prime 12, for Malay, Tamil and Foreign-language programming, and Premiere 12, for arts, children’s and sports programming.
On 1 March 1999, Channel NewsAsia was launched as Singapore's first dedicated news channel. It was broadcast first regionally, then from 2001 internationally. In September 1999, TCS underwent a corporate restructuring and became Media Corporation of Singapore or MediaCorp Singapore.
On 30 January 2000, MediaCorp launched the channel Suria (which means “sun” or “sunlight” in Malay), replacing Prime 12 as a dedicated channel for Malay programmes. Premiere 12 was replaced by the channel Central, and had three distinctive programming belts to cater to different audiences: Kids Central, Arts Central and Vasantham Central, which showed Tamil programmes.
In 2001, the Singapore government allowed Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to offer competition in the television broadcasting sector. SPH created a subsidiary SPH MediaWorks, which began operating on 6 May 2001 with two free-to-air channels, TVWorks (later renamed Channel i) and Channel U, with English and Chinese programming respectively.
The competition between SPH MediaWorks and MediaCorp proved to be commercially unviable. In late 2004, MediaCorp and SPH agreed to merge their mass-market television and free newspaper operations. MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd was formed as a result, 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, Vasantham Central expanded to become a full-fledged free-to-air channel, Vasantham (Vasantham means “spring” in Tamil). 75 per cent of the programming on Vasantham was to be in Tamil, with the other 25 per cent in other South Asian languages. On the same day, Arts and Kids Central programmes were spun off to another new channel, okto.
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.
Around 90% of the Singapore homes (and across the island 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. Analogue television has been declining.Channel 5 (SDTV; VHF 5 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
Suria (SDTV; VHF 12 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
Channel U (SDTV; UHF 28 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
Channel 8 (SDTV; VHF 8 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
Vasantham (SDTV; UHF 24 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
Channel NewsAsia (SDTV; UHF 32 from Starhub Cable Point and ATT, also DVB-T or DHD)
okto (SDTV; UHF 30 from ATT, UHF 25 from Starhub Cable Point, also DVB-T or DHD)
Marina Bay Sands Television HD (HDTV; UHF on Channel 99 from DVB-T2 or DHD/Ultra HD by Singtel TV)
HD5 (HDTV; UHF 599.250 MHz from DVB-T or DHD)
Channel 5 HD (HDTV; UHF 538.250 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Suria HD (HDTV; UHF 538 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Channel U (SDTV; UHF 599.250 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Channel 8 HD (HDTV; UHF 554 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Vasantham HD (HDTV; UHF 554 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Channel NewsAsia HD (HDTV; UHF 522 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
Okto HD (HDTV; UHF 522 MHz from DVB-T2 or DHD)
a. ^ replacing TV12 Kids Central and TV12 Arts Central owner by TV12 Central and SPH Channel i owner by SPH MediaWorksSuperSports Arena (Became free-to-air from 10 October 2013, only for DVB-T2 television channels only)
SPH Channel i (UHF 543.25 MHz from SCTV point to antenna and DVB-T)
TV12 Central (UHF 495.25 MHz from SCTV point to antenna and DVB-T)
TV12 Kids Central
TV12 Vasantham Central
TV12 Arts Central
MediaCorp TVMobile (UHF 196.25 MHz from DVB-T)
Chat TV (English & Chinese Drama, Short Film, Trailer. It also consist of Laughing Avenue)
b. ^ replacing TV12 Vasantham Central formerly by MediaCorp TV12 Central
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:TV1 (Johor Bahru 55 UHF)
TV2 (Johor Bahru 10 VHF)
TV3 (Johor Bahru 26 UHF)
NTV7 (Johor Bahru 42 UHF)
8TV (Johor Bahru 46 UHF)
TV9 (Johor Bahru 44 UHF)
TVRI (Batam 6 VHF)
RCTI (Batam 43 UHF)
SCTV (Batam 47 UHF)
MNCTV (Batam 41 UHF)
ANTV (Batam 53 UHF)
Indosiar (Batam 49 UHF)
Metro TV (Batam 25 UHF)
Trans TV (Batam 45 UHF)
Trans7 (Batam 57 UHF)
Global TV (Batam 59 UHF)
tvOne (Batam 27 UHF)
NET. (Batam 39 UHF)
Rajawali Televisi (Batam 23 UHF)
Batam TV (Batam 51 UHF)
iNews TV (Batam 61 UHF)
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. Moreover, catch up TV services available on those channels' websites are now completely accessible in Singapore, only for local programming.