MANILA, Philippines - Top officials of some of the country’s biggest broadcasting companies have expressed concern over the possible adverse effects of the country’s impending migration from analog to digital television on the viewing public.
In an interview with The STAR, GMA Network chairman Felipe Gozon said that there is still a very small percentage of the Philippine population that has access to television sets that can receive digital transmission.
“As far as we are concerned, our system is already digital-ready. It is not even sensitive to the particular technology that will be adopted eventually by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). But once the networks shut down analog transmission, a big part of the population will not be able to use their TV sets,” he emphasized.
TV5 president Ray Espinosa echoed the sentiments of Gozon, saying that it will be the viewing public that will be hit by the shift to digital.
Set-top boxes are required for TV sets that are not digital ready and without the boxes, these sets will not receive broadcast transmission. Japan, which has been pushing for the adoption of the ISDB-T technology, has reportedly offered to produce the set-top boxes locally in order to further bring down cost, in addition to other assistance(both technical and financial).
According to an NTC official, the country’s migration to digital TV is set to start next year with Metro Manila pioneering the process.
Sources revealed that an NTC technical working group (TWG) is currently drafting the rules for the adoption of the Japanese ISDB-T as the technology that will be used by all broadcasting companies for the shift to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting. As planned, analog transmission will be shut down not later than 2015.
NTC deputy commissioner Carlo Juan Martinez said in an interview that the agency will be coming up with the implementing rules and regulations by June, which will fire up the setting up of antenna and TV towers that will transmit digital signals to the households.
“We can introduce it within the year or next year, the sooner the better,” Martinez said.
He added that the technical group will be reviewing the IRR issued by the previous TWG to update the digital technologies and incorporate the emerging ones.
“We plan to identify certain areas like Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and other key cities to kick off the digital. From then on, we can proceed to smaller cities and municipalities. Once we determine that 85 percent of the viewing public has digital boxes installed in their TV units or that they already have digital TVs, that will be the time that we’ll shut off the analog,” he said.
According to him, the Philippines will be following Japan’s strategy in digitalizing its TV households which were done in phases.
He said Japan took nine to 10 years from the start of digitalization to fully shut off its analog TV systems and migrate its households to digital TV.
Martinez also revealed that there is no agreement signed yet between the Philippines and Japan but the latter submitted a proposal to the NTC offering technical assistance to the government and private companies.
The regulator earlier said Japan has offered to subsidize the transition from analog to digital TV of government channels through provision of equipment and training.
The Japanese proponents are also studying the possibility of manufacturing the set top boxes here in the Philippines which are now priced at $10 each.
Japan earlier said it is ready to provide the Philippines with technical assistance and necessary equipment for the country’s shift to digital TV.
However, it said the possibility of providing financial assistance to local TV stations cannot be assured yet as the draft offer submitted to the government only includes sharing of expertise through technical training.
Japan’s first secretary for transport and economic affairs Masaoki Shirai in an interview with The STAR outlined the various advantages of the ISDB-T (Japanese system), comparing it to the one being offered by the Europeans (DVB).
Source: Philippine StarShirai noted that the ISDB-T offers an efficient frequency utilization and mobile TV service, which is not possible under DVB. - Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, dated 27 February 2011, 12:00 AM.