Memorandum submitted by the Oxford University
Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy
The Oxford University Programme in Comparative
Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) researches changes in media and communications
systems through an international network and using comparative
methodologies. Its work considers the interplay between changing
media systems and human rights debates, democratic values and
economic development. The Programme concentrates on three main
areas: research and publications, technical assistance and building
an international network, and involving students and researchers
from around the world in the Programme's activities. PCMLP aims:
To examine the processes of restructuring
media and telecommunications structures from various perspectives;
To provide a framework for understanding
the background, mechanisms, and prospects of the processes of
media restructuring; and
To help provide a new generation
of scholars and policymakers with a sharpened comparative insight
into the problems of adjustment of technology to society.
The international dimension is relevant to the
subject of digital switchover for four reasons. First, research
from other countries experiencing similar transitions can inform
us about technical performance, market take-up, and consumer behaviour
and satisfaction. Second, the policy dilemmas and trade-offs experienced
in other countries may be similar in some cases to our own. If
they have been resolved differently, we might ask why and how,
and whether a best-practice consensus is emerging. Third, markets
(eg for transmission technology and receiver decoders) are trans-national.
Fourth and finally, switchover policy-making in the European Union,
in certain respects, takes place in conjunction with other member
states. We need to be aware of likely trends in other European
countries and how these in turn may affect the United Kingdom.
All of these rationales for research interlock and intertwine.
This short paper cannot hope to offer definitive
conclusions, especially as developments are still very much in
progress, and it does not attempt to provide an exhaustive survey.
It tries to portray the big picture. Digital television at present
is largely a preoccupation of the advanced economies of the world
and the major markets are the United States, Japan and Europeand,
within Europe, the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. The paper
aims to draw out some of the implications of comparative policy
in this area and to provide a pragmatic overview to assist the
Committee in assessing the current UK policy. It has been prepared
by Damian Tambini, director of the Programme, and two visiting
researchers in this field: Michael Starks (formerly manager of
the UK Digital TV Project and currently researching digital switchover
with a grant from the British Academy) and Trinidad Garcia (from
Complutense University of Madrid, a PhD researcher looking at
switchover policy in Spain and the UK).
One caveat: in a study of this nature, with
evidence drawn from many diverse sources, some more recent than
others, some translated, there is a small risk that statistics
may be produced according to different methods and, of course,
even in a few months situations can change.
2. THE UNITED
2.1 Leap to digital HDTV?
At the outset the digital television agenda
in the United States was about high definition television (HDTV).
In 1986 Japan put forward its analogue high-definition system,
Hi-Vision, as the basis for a global standard. Had this been agreed,
it would have placed the Japanese consumer electronics industry,
already powerful in an increasingly global market, in pole position
for the next generation of technology and products. American companies
reacted by lobbying for an American version of terrestrial HDTV.
The American TV market consisted of over 100 million homes with
over two sets per household: prime territory for marketing a new
generation of technology.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission)
set up an Advisory Committee and, after General Instrument announced
a technical breakthrough in 1990, this recommended an all-digital
HDTV system. After much testing, the ATSC (Advanced Television
Systems Committee) standards for digital terrestrial television
in the United States were established.
2.2 Evolution of FCC policy
The FCC's initial approach to digital terrestrial
television was to loan all the existing terrestrial broadcasters
an additional frequency (sufficient for an HD transmission), oblige
them to simulcast their analogue service in digital HDTV for perhaps
15 years, then shut down all analogue transmission and take back
the extra frequency. The "carrot" for terrestrial broadcasters
lay in free new spectrum and the absence of any new competition.
However, while plenty of broadcaster expenditure
was envisaged, there was no source of additional revenue: simulcast
advertising carried on the HD channel would initially be to tiny
audiences. The broadcasters showed strong interest in standard
definition digital services as well. By the time the legal foundations
for launching digital terrestrial television were laid down in
the 1996 Telecommunications Act, HD had become optional. The terrestrial
broadcasters would be loaned the extra spectrum but whether they
used it for HD was left to their discretion. The simulcast requirement
was eased and later removed.
In return for this commercial flexibility, the
broadcasters were required to achieve digital switchover on an
accelerated timetable, so that spectrum could be released and
auctioned. They were set staggered start-dates between 1999 and
2003 and the FCC's target was to terminate analogue broadcasting
by 31 December 2006. 
The broadcasters lobbied for a softer switchover
date and found ready allies in Congress. The Balanced Budget Act
of 1997 introduced a qualification whereby analogue broadcasts
could continue after 2006 if fewer than 85% of households in any
given area were equipped to receive digital television (terrestrially,
by satellite or by cable).
Even this plan hit problems. Many broadcasters
faced planning or financial hurdles relating to transmission masts
and were unable to start digital broadcasting on time. Digital
TV receiver sales were slow, as consumers waited for more digital
content and lower receiver prices. Shops continued to sell millions
of analogue TVs each year. No date for 85% take-up could be confidently
2.3 Mandating digital TV sets
The FCC acknowledged that 2006 was no longer
credible and gave case-by-case consideration to arguments by broadcasters
unable to implement on time, with penalties for undeserving cases.
More controversially, it broadened the regulatory framework to
encompass the receiver industry. It decided to use powers it had
been granted in a different context under the All-Channel Receiver
Act of 1962 to mandate the inclusion of digital tuners in new
TV sets. The
receiver manufacturers challenged this in court. The FCC won.
The requirement is being phased in and is now
due to be complete for all screen sizes by March 2007. One
of the side-effects was an increase in the production of "HD-ready"
flat screen TV monitors with no tuner at all (but suitable for
linking to a digital HD set-top box). However, the policy is beginning
to show results and the receiver manufacturers, reconciled to
it, have become advocates of fixing a "hard date" for
2.4 Cable and satellite
Terrestrial transmission is of only modest importance
in the United States. Around 60% of homes are on cable (a mixture
of digital and analogue) and a further 20% are served by digital
In 2003 the FCC endorsed an agreement between
the TV set manufacturers and the cable companies on a standardised
interface between the digital cable input and a digital TV set,
making it possible to "plug and play" one-way digital
cable services without the need for a set-top box (though a cable
card would be needed for conditional access). This
meant that the mandated digital TV sets, each with an ATSC digital
terrestrial tuner, were no longer just a product for the small
terrestrial TV market but could also be sold as "digital
cable-ready" in an open market.
Cable companies are obliged, under "must
carry" rules, to relay the local broadcast services. Satellite
operators are not obliged to carry local broadcast services but,
if they choose to do so for a particular market (which, in general,
is an attractive business proposition), they have to carry all
the relevant local services and not just some.
There has been much debate over how to apply
this approach to digital television. Should the "must carry"
obligation cover the new digital as well as the analogue broadcast
services ("dual carriage")? And if broadcasters transmit
several standard definition services, do they all have to be carried
("multi-casting")? The FCC's answer to both questions
has been "No".
Post-switchover the broadcasters want cable
companies to be obliged to carry their digital signals throughout
their systems. Some analogue cable operators want to be free to
"down-convert" the digital signal at the head-end for
analogue distribution to continuing analogue TV viewers.
This issue remains unresolved but allowing this
exception to an all-digital world could dramatically reduce the
number of American households affected by switchover. The Government
Accounting Office estimated in 2005 that about 19% of US households
(disproportionately non-white and Hispanic and disproportionately
poor) rely wholly on terrestrial television, though switchover
would also affect cable and satellite homes with terrestrial second
and third TV sets (eg in bedrooms or kitchens).
2.5 Fixing a "hard date"
Both political and industry pressures have been
mounting to jettison the 85% digital penetration threshold and
fix a "hard date" for full digital switchover. Congress
is interested in the contribution (variously estimated at between
$10 billion and $30 billion) which a spectrum auction could make
to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The 9/11 Commission highlighted the need for increasing the spectrum
allocated to "first responders" (fire, police, ambulance
services) in an emergencyso
taking spectrum away from TV for this purpose commands political
support. Through the High Tech Digital Coalition, leading electronics
companies have emphasised the suitability of the released spectrum
both for public safety use and for wireless broadband.
Spectrum reallocation has some support among
consumer groups who are not opposed outright to switchover but
advocate a "consumer-friendly" implementation, with
financial protection for those compelled to switch. The terrestrial
broadcasters have invited the receiver manufacturing industry
to design cheap converter boxes to enable analogue TV sets to
keep functioning when they receive only a digital signal. So there
is political debate about whether such boxes should be subsidised
and, if so, for whom and how. Putting warning labels on analogue
receivers in the shops is also under consideration and would probably
be accepted by the industry.
The timing mooted for a "hard date"
is 2009 and the issue is currently caught up in the Congressional
Budget Reconciliation process.
A great deal of work remains to be done. The
FCC has to finalise the post-switchover frequency plan which will
involve significant frequency changes (it has ruled out doing
a phased switch-off, region by region, because of the complexity
of frequency boundary issues among some 1,700 terrestrial broadcasters).
Cable regulatory issues, copyright protection methodology and
a debate over broadcasters' future public service obligations
all need resolution. Responsibilities and any new cross-industry
collaborative arrangements need to be decided: Congress would
make the decision about a "hard date" but would not
lead implementation. Once responsibilities have been clarified,
public communication needs to change gear and the logistics need
mapping. The operational implications are not yet in sharp focus.
However, a political decision to commit to 2009 would still allow
three years for managing the practicalities of implementation.
2.6 The USA and the UK: similarities and differences
The United States and the United Kingdom were
"first movers" in digital terrestrial television and
their experiences show several broad similarities:
industry's collaborative process
for technical standard-setting,
the policy link between the introduction
of digital terrestrial television and the intention to switch-off
the allocation of spectrum to existing
the importance of spectrum clearance
and reuse as a dominant motive,
early market experience not following
government's ultimate responsibility
for setting the switchover timetable,
government standing back from the
operational implementation of switchover.
Specific differences, however, are numerous:
the importance of high-definition
in the US (technologically the Americans are making a bigger leap
into the future),
the American digital TV set market
being driven by improved picture and sound quality, especially
for large-screen displays (new digital channels have driven UK
set-top boxes sales),
the sheer scale and complexity of
the American market (the number of broadcasters, channels, households,
TV sets, etc),
the dominant role of cable in the
US market (the concept of "digital cable-ready" TV sets,
and the importance attached to the "must carry" regulations),
the mandating of digital tuners by
the absence of any FCC requirement
for digital terrestrial services to simulcast analogue terrestrial
the absence of an equivalent to the
role of the BBC and the licence fee,
the greater clarity and immediacy
of American plans for reusing released spectrum, including a public
safety purpose which has public support, and industry pushing
for other new developments,
the stronger American budgetary interest
in accelerating the switchover timetable and auctioning spectrum,
the relative lack of formal cross-industry
stakeholder collaboration in the US after the initial technical
standard-setting (ie no equivalent to the UK's Digital TV Group
and the Action Plan, leading up to the formation of Digital UK).
In 1989 NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, launched
satellite services including analogue HDTV, financed by a supplementary
licence fee. It was Japan's bid to have this HD technology recognised
as the basis for a new global standard that triggered the rival
digital television initiatives of Europe and the United States.
Since the US committed instead to digital high definition, Japan
has been rapidly catching up in the new business of digital television.
3.1 The framework for digital television
Japan has adopted its own set of digital television
technical standards, termed ISBD (Integrated Services Digital
Broadcasting), with some similarities to European system. ISDB
maximises technical compatibility between digital satellite and
digital terrestrial television. This, coupled with agreement between
free-to-view broadcasters on a common Conditional Access system
to restrict copying, makes it possible to manufacture dual platform
(satellite and terrestrial) high definition TV sets.
These technical standards, along with spectrum
allocation policy, were also designed to support mobile television
via hand-held mini-TVs or mobile telephones. No longer first-to-market
in digital television, Japan aspired instead to be the most far-sighted.
3.2 Digital satellite
Japan's first digital broadcasts started outside
of this government-regulated framework. As Sky had done in the
UK, multinational commercial companies entered the Japanese market
using satellites to offer multi-channel subscription services
for reception either via their own proprietary set-top boxes or
via cable. One of these, Sky PerfecTV, has built up over 3 million
digital satellite subscribers.
Government-regulated digital satellite television
began in 2000, based on Japan's allocated direct-to-home satellite
is licensed to provide three satellite channels: two simulcasts
of its analogue satellite services and the third wholly HD. Licences
also went to two pay TV operations and five advertising-financed
services provided by sister companies of the main terrestrial
commercial broadcasters. An open market in digital satellite receivers
developed, with tuners either built into, or sold to accompany,
large flat-screen TVs.
However, by the time these government-licensed
digital satellite services were launched, NHK had built up over
10 million supplementary licence fee-paying households on analogue
satellite. It could not alienate this constituency of "legacy"
households by compelling them to transfer to digital satellite
without plenty of notice. The plan is to stop high definition
programming on analogue satellite in 2007 and to end standard
definition analogue satellite services in 2011. 
3.3 Committing to full digital switchover
Through no coincidence 2011 is also the year
in which analogue terrestrial television is due to end. The Japanese
government boldly announced the analogue terrestrial switch-off
date before digital terrestrial television in Japan was even launched.
Indeed, for licensing reasons a precise date has been set: Japan
is to switch fully to digital TV on 24 July 2011.
The government motives, here as in other countries,
are to remain abreast of changing television and telecommunications
technology and to seize the opportunity to release, and re-use,
scarce spectrum. In this high-technology economy, spectrum is
under increasingly heavy demand and vacated analogue TV frequencies
are likely to be used for digital radio and for telecommunications,
including mobile communications.
The challenge of accomplishing digital switchover
by this date is formidable. Japan is a densely populated country,
with some 48 million TV households possessing over 100 million
TV sets and a high level of communal reception. Cable and master-antenna
relay systems account for around 50% of households. The cable
companies are mostly small and localthere are over 600and
many lack the capital to switch to digital. The government is
encouraging them to work to the 2011 timetable but has not required
them to do so by law.
Perhaps the greatest challenge comes from Japan's
mountainous topography. In total Japan has around 15,000 transmitting
devices mounted on around 8,000 transmission masts (compared to
the UK's 1,100 masts). Spectrum is intensively used and, whereas
in the UK it has been possible to find new frequencies for digital
terrestrial television in between the frequencies used for analogue,
this is impractical in Japan.
Accordingly, the Japanese government decided
to spend 180 billion yen (about £900 million) reorganising
the analogue terrestrial frequencies in order to make space for
digital terrestrial transmissions. This
is a complex technical project, and over 4 million homes need
to be visited for TV retuning. The advantage of the scheme is
that digital terrestrial services can be launched on their correct
long-term frequencies, avoiding the complex four-year region-by-region
digital frequency changes which switchover will involve in the
3.4 Digital terrestrial services and receivers
The Japanese government awarded digital terrestrial
licences to NHK and to the current terrestrial commercial broadcasters
(of whom there are around 170), who are expected to make large
investments in digital production and transmission infrastructure.
85% of their output has to be a simulcast of their analogue terrestrial
services and 50% has to be in high definition. The latter has
the effect of requiring so much spectrum that, ahead of switchover,
no new broadcasters can enter the market (a point which has perhaps
helped soften the costs of switchover to the broadcasters).
New data-cast services will be launched and
a segment within the spectrum allocated to each broadcaster has
been set aside for transmission to hand-held mobile receivers
from 2006. Initially the content for mobiles will simply be the
main terrestrial output but special programming specifically designed
for mobile reception may be permitted subsequently.
Digital terrestrial transmissions to the Tokyo,
Osaka and Nagoya regionsthe main centres of high populationbegan
in 2003. The extension of digital terrestrial television to the
rest of the country is planned for 2006, only five years ahead
of the switchover deadline.
Because the consumer proposition is based on
high definition, mainly free-to-view, services, reception is designed
to be on new integrated high definition digital TV sets. These
are normally flat-screen (as distinct from cathode-ray tube) and
can receive both digital satellite and digital terrestrial services
(assuming the appropriate aerial). They were initially introduced
at the top end of the market, with large screen sizes and prices
in excess of £1,000. There is as yet no substantial set-top
box market aimed at converting analogue TVs, although stand-alone
tuners are sold to work with HD-ready TV monitors or with analogue
Digital TVs are still regarded as expensive
and analogue sales continue to dominate the market, outselling
digital receivers in 2004 in a ratio of 3:1. However, for 2005
the ratio is closer to 2:1, so the market is changing. For
digital TVs to start outselling analogue sets on a major scale,
digital tuners will need to be included in small screen-size models.
3.5 Collaborative Action Planning
In 2001 the government and the terrestrial broadcasters
formed the National Council for the Promotion of Terrestrial Digital
Broadcasting. It has produced a "road-map" giving dates
and target coverage figures for the roll-out of digital terrestrial
In 2003 it convened a wider body, called the
National Conference for the Promotion of Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting,
which also included the receiver manufacturers, the cable companies,
local government bodies and other stakeholders. It issues annual
Action Plans. The goal for 2011 is the conversion to digital terrestrial
(or to wired relays of digital terrestrial) of 48 million homes
and 100 million receivers, and key milestones have been set for
take-up by 2006 (football World Cup in Germany) and by 2008 (Beijing
The Action Plans also cover activities carried
out by a non-profit organisation formed by the broadcasters and
receiver manufacturers to undertake promotion. It runs an outsourced
Call Centre (financed by a government grant), publishes explanatory
leaflets, and administers a system for labelling receivers in
the shops, including a yellow warning sticker with the date 2011,
for display on analogue TVs. This is a voluntary system, only
agreed after much dialogue about the need for a planned phasing-out
of analogue TVs and about the obligation to give consumers timely
information about potentially obsolescent equipment. 
By the end of September 2005 a cumulative total
of over 6 million digital terrestrial-capable receivers and digital
cable set-top boxes had been sold, leaving
a dauntingly steep graph of projected sales required for 2011
to be workable. On this basis digital household penetration is
quoted as around 13%, though the methodology for measuring it
is still under review. Publicity about switchover remains relatively
low key. Research undertaken in March 2005 showed that, while
66.4% of respondents had heard about switchover as a long-term
goal, only 9.2% were aware of the 2011 deadline. 
If there are any unvoiced doubts as to whether
100 million digital receivers will really have been sold by 2011,
they may be offset by expectations of significant growth in broadband
reception of broadcast TV services. In 2004 the government published
a White Paper noting that at the end of 2003 78.2% of Japanese
households had a personal computer; 61.7% used always-on Internet
connections; and 93.9% had mobile phones, of which 56.5% were
Internet compatible. This
is the electronic environment to which digital television is now
being added. The Japanese government is unlikely to waver in its
aim to release broadcasting frequencies for telecommunications.
3.6 Japan and the UK: similarities and differences
Similarities between Japan and the UK on digital
spectrum clearance as a major aim;
the importance of terrestrial TV
as a platform;
allocation of digital terrestrial
spectrum to existing broadcasters;
the role of a licence fee-funded
major public broadcaster; and
the role of industry working collaboratively
The differences are more numerous:
Japan's switchover date named ahead
of digital terrestrial launch;
Japan's major analogue frequency
changes at the outset;
the central role of high definition
the greater importance in Japan of
integrated digital TV sets, predominantly, flatscreen/HD, compared
to set-top boxes;
the existence of dual platform receivers
in Japan (although note that digital satellite services do not
include simulcasts of analogue terrestrial);
Japan's digital terrestrial services
planned for mobile reception;
the labelling of analogue TVs with
warning stickers in Japanese shops; and
extent of the Japanese government's
involvement in leading, and helping to fund, digital switchover
(no equivalent of Ofcom).
4.1 The EU and the Pattern of National Diversity
In the 1980s Europe reacted to Japan's analogue
HDTV initiative by developing its own rival analogue satellite
system, including high definition, called MAC (Multiplex Analogue
Component). Embodied in a European Directive, it proved technically
over-ambitious and commercially disastrous. In the UK British
Satellite Broadcasting, using MAC, failed, and Sky, using simpler
low-cost technology, succeeded.
In the 1990s European broadcasters and receiver
manufacturers reacted against politically-driven high technology
strategies and vowed to implement what the market would support.
Many European countries, with a history of state or public service
dominated broadcasting, had relatively few TV channels. The market
was ripe for multi-channel choice which new standard definition
digital TV could supply. Unlike the United States and Japan, Europe
therefore opted for standard definition digital television. With
the highest digital take-up in the world, currently well over
60%, the UK assessed the market correctly. While there is now
a growing interest in the UK and elsewhere in Europe in HDTV,
no European country's switchover policy is based on it.
Due to the failure of the MAC Directive and
the liberalising trend emerging from Information Society documents
such as the Bangemann Report and the Green Paper on Convergence,
the EU has favoured a market-driven approach to the digital transition.
It endorsed the commercially-based and collectively developed
DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) standards and, by deciding not
to be prescriptive in detail, has permitted considerable technical
The EU framework has been broadly set by:
the Television Without Frontiers
Directive, currently under revision, which regulates the free
movement of television broadcasting services in the Union in order
to promote the development of a European market in broadcasting
and related activities, such as television advertising and the
production of audiovisual programmes,
the Electronic Communications Framework
Directive with its associated directives
and the Radio Spectrum Decision, which regulate transmission facilities
(infrastructure and associated services) and radio spectrum,
areas of competition law, including
the Merger Control Regulation Antitrust (Articles 81 and 82 EU
Treaty), standards for services of general interest (Article 86)
and State aid review (Article 87).
The Communications Review in 1999
and the subsequent communication Principles and guidelines
for the Community's audiovisual policy in the digital age,
a horizontal and technologically-neutral regulatory approach that
was reinforced with the Communication from digital "switchover"
to analogue "switch-off".
The switchover process was to be guided by a neutral multi-platform
In May 2005, the European Commission recommended
that its members phase out analogue terrestrial broadcasting by
2012, calling for a coordinated approach. It
has developed a vision of the Information Society based on converging
media services, networks and devices. With
an eye on Europe's regional Radiocommunications conference next
year, it advocates a common European approach and market mechanisms
to manage radio spectrum. 
However, policy decisions and timing issues
have been left largely to member states. While national governments
are not free individually to mandate digital TV sets, since the
market for TV receivers is a European one, in other respects they
have considerable latitude. They are not precluded from taking
steps to promote a specific technology for transmission of digital
television as a means for increasing spectrum efficiency, provided
such actions are "proportionate".
The result has been a very varied set of experiences
in different European countries, reflecting different market sizes,
the balance between platforms, the pattern of competition, the
availability of terrestrial frequencies, the strength of the desire
to safeguard public broadcasting and/or to foster broadcasting
pluralism, and the degree of focus on re-using released analogue
spectrum for other purposes.
It is not possible to describe the European
market in general terms in the way that the United States and
Japanese markets can be characterised: national diversity within
Europe is too great. Two observations can be made:
western Europe is much further advanced
than eastern Europe,
smaller countries and/or countries
in which cable and satellite predominate, and terrestrial reception
is therefore relatively unimportant are likely to find it easier
to switch off analogue at an early date than others. It is probable,
for example, that Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany
will complete switchover ahead of the UK.
Beyond that it is necessary to look in more
detail at the individual national experiences and, in the section
below, we describe briefly the situation in Europe's four major
digital TV markets (apart from the UK): Spain, Germany, Italy
4.2 Four major national markets
4.2.1 Spain: a second chance for DTT
On 30 November 2005, Spain officially re-launched
digital terrestrial television. Its first venture into the field
ended with the collapse of the pay-TV service, Quiero, in circumstances
not dissimilar to the collapse of ITV Digital in the UK.
In Spain terrestrial television plays a major
role. In a country with 13.7 million households,
cable and satellite penetration is modest (1.1 million and 2 million
A single satellite platform, Digital+, controls the pay-TV market.
Even though Telefonica's TV over DSL has made an impact, with
100,000 subscribers by October 2005, a successful digital terrestrial
platform is viewed as essential to analogue switch-off.
Spain was one of the pioneers in launching digital
terrestrial services in Europe. Legislation was approved in 1998
and Quiero launched in May 2000. All the existing national and
regional broadcasters were given a second free frequency to simulcast
in digital and began to do so in April 2002. Two additional national
digital terrestrial channels, Net TV and Veo TV were launched
in June 2002. The receiver market depended on Quiero's provision
of set-top boxes to its subscribers. Switchover was targeted for
2012. But due to financial difficulties, Quiero TV ceased to broadcast
in May 2002, leaving Net TV, Veo TV and the simulcasting broadcasters
transmitting to a stagnant market.
A period of inaction followed. The new Government
has decided to modify the regulatory framework and technical plan
and re-launch DTT before the end of 2005, bringing forward analogue
switch-off from 2012 to 2010. Free-to-view services, with a key
role for the state broadcaster, RTVE, are central to the scheme.
RTVE will have a multiplex containing four channels with regional
variations and, in due course, another Single Frequency Network
multiplex covering the whole of Spain. Previously, its role was
minimal: it shared one multiplex with the other national broadcasters
and received no additional funding. With its two multiplexes now,
it will be expected to cover 80% of the population by the end
of 2005, 90% by 2008 and 98% for the proposed switch-off in 2010.
the 17 Spanish regions ("Comunidades
Autónomas", Independent Autonomies) have been granted
a second multiplex,
Canal+ pay analogue channel is being
converted to free-to-view (and renamed Cuatro) and its digital
simulcast version will strengthen the free-to-view digital terrestrial
another new analogue terrestrial
channel is being created to cover 70% of the population
and it too will be simulcast on digital terrestrial, allowing
its analogue version to be switched off in 2010.
The strategy is to drive through switchover
spearheaded by a "Freeview"-style digital terrestrial
platform. Five multiplexes offering national services will be
organised as follows:
RTVE will operate five channels,
the existing analogue commercial
broadcasters (Antena 3, Tele 5 and Cuatro) three each,
the existing digital terrestrial
operators (Veo TV and Net TV) two each,
the new analogue channel (La Sexta)
After switchover, each existing analogue national
broadcaster will get a whole multiplex.
At regional and local level public competitions
are being organised for the regional and local services. Technical
planning takes account of possible mobile and HD development.
There is now an open market in unsubsidised
receivers. The price for a basic set-top box ranges from 79-119
euros upwards, and for iDTVs from 1,200 to 4,900 euros. Major
manufacturers report that since last January more than 400,000
receivers have been sold (more than half during the last three
months), of which only 5% were iDTVs. The industry forecasts that
at least another 300,000 units will be sold during Christmas sales
but the receiver market is still in its infancy.
The switchover process is organised through
the State Secretary of the Telecommunications and Information
Society linked to the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.
The CMT (Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones;
Telecommunications Market Commission) is the independent regulator
for telecommunication market and audiovisual services.
A new Audiovisual Law and a new Public TV Law
are expected soon. The latter would limit advertising time on
state television. Currently, the maximum of 12 minutes per hour
applies to all broadcasters. The Government plans to reduce the
minutes at least to eight in RTVE's case, so as to release part
of its revenues to the benefit of commercial operators. RTVE's
funding is currently under scrutiny and debate. The new law to
be passed should re-define its scale, scope, business model and
role in the digital world.
In February a new body called the "Comisión
para el Seguimiento de la Transición a la Televisión
Digital Terrestre" was set up under the presidency of the
State Secretary of Telecommunications, composed of representatives
from RTVE, regional channels, commercial television broadcasters,
radio stations, electronic manufacturers, installers and wholesalers.
The committee aims to foster and develop digital terrestrial as
well as to establish and approve a strategy for digital transition.
In October the broadcasters also launched an organisation called
the "Asociación Pro TDT" to undertake promotion.
There are no official plans to subsidise digital
take-up and/or digital switchover, though all main stakeholders
demand subsidies. Nor are there any official plans to mandate
digital TV sets or label analogue TVs as obsolescent, despite
pressure from manufacturers.
After a period of relative stagnation following
the collapse of Quiero, digital terrestrial television in Spain
now has a second chance, strongly linked to switchover. The plans
are now mostly laid, though some uncertainties remain; the platform
has been relaunched; it remains to be seen what will happen in
Similarities with the UK are:
pioneer development in digital terrestrial
television that suffered from early failure of the pay-TV service,
Quiero, which collapsed for similar reasons as ITV Digital;
digital terrestrial simulcasts of
switchover dependent on digital terrestrial
as well as other platforms;
switch to a new Freeview-style business
model for digital terrestrial; and
a fuller role now being given to
the public television broadcaster.
a longer period of policy inaction
after Quiero's collapse;
greater management by government
in the Spanish case;
no detailed timetable yet for Spanish
greater importance in Spain given
to regional/local services and regional decentralised broadcasting
less choice of affordable set-top
boxes for Spanish consumers; and
no announcements in Spain of subsidies
for vulnerable consumers.
4.2.2 Germany: switchover through low dependence
The German TV market is dominated by cable:
in a country with 36.2 million households, only 2.6 million rely
on terrestrial TV, cable penetration is the highest at 20.6 million,
followed by satellite at 13 million
(satellite has a strong free-to-view character in Germany, as
well as offering pay TV options). The number of people directly
affected by analogue terrestrial switch-off is therefore relatively
small. Digital switchover began in 2002.
Frequencies for terrestrial broadcasting in
Germany are scarce and there was no possibility of having a lengthy
period of digital and analogue simulcasting as in the UK. Digital
terrestrial is therefore being launched shortly before analogue
switchoff and marketed on the basis that analogue transmissions
will shortly cease. The switchover process is regional, in "islands"
formed by large conurbations, under the regulatory authority of
the "Lander" who have responsibility for media regulation.
It is significant that digital terrestrial has
been chosen to facilitate switchover. The alternative would have
been to attempt to convert everyone to cable or satellite, with
satellite as the non-subscription option. This, however, would
have been more disruptive and expensive for consumers, satellite
signals in urban environments are subject to high building shadows,
and many cable operations take their feed from terrestrial transmissions.
Terrestrial is also valued by some consumers for portability and
set-top reception, often for second or third sets (and Germany's
technical planning takes this into account). The potential of
digital terrestrial for mobile reception was also a factor. However,
it is unlikely that digital terrestrial coverage will be universal,
and some rural areas will rely on the established pattern of free-to-view
Digital terrestrial was initially launched in
Berlin in October 2002. Legislation has been in place since spring
2002 and the sunset date for completing switchover, following
a detailed timetable, is 2010.
Analogue switch off has already happened in
in 2003, Berlin became the first
all-digital metropolis in the world,
other areas, such as North Rhine
Westphalia, northern Germany and Bavaria, have followed suit (eg:
on 31 August 2005, the terrestrial analogue signal was switched
off in Munich, Nuremburg and parts of southern Bavaria following
a three month simulcast period),
digital terrestrial services are
planned to start in the Halle/Leipzig, Erfurt/Weimar and Rostock/Schwerin
areas this December, with the Kassel, Mannheim and Stuttgart areas
following during 2006.
The digital terrestrial offering in Germany
depends on the assignments in every "island". The actual
number of channels depends on the spectrum available and varies
from region to region.
For example, in Berlin-Brandenburg, MABB, the regulatory authority,
assigned multiplexes to the major public and commercial broadcasters
but decided at the same time that a minimum of two multiplexes
should be available for other broadcasters and new applicants.
In May 2004, up to 20 programmes on five channels could be received
in the Cologne/Bonn area and up to 16 on four channels each in
Hannover/Braunschweig and Bremen/Unterweser. Following the switch
off in Munich, Nuremburg and parts of southern Bavaria, viewers
can access 20 television programmes, some of them offering MHP
(multi-media home platform) services.
There is an open market in receivers, with about
20 models available and an average cost of 100 euros.
Digital terrestrial pay-TV is a theoretical possibility but limited
by the assignment of available spectrum to free-to-view channels.
Most receiving equipment sold does not include conditional access.
The Berlin government body, MABB, coordinated
all the terrestrial broadcasters in its region and acted as an
enabler for digital terrestrial, bringing together the main stakeholders
to develop a joint communications campaign. "Must carry"
obligations were imposed on cable.
MABB also provided two types of subsidy:
on the supply side, to secure their
participation in digital terrestrial, commercial broadcasters
were given a multiplex and MABB paid approximately 30% of the
digital transmission costs for a period of five years,
on the demand side, a scheme for
low income households was designed (supporting set-top box rental
and purchases during the switchover period).
The European Commission has recently ruled against
the digital terrestrial transmission subsidy to commercial broadcasters
in Berlin-Brandenburg. It decided that the aid, worth some four
million euros, violates EU Treaty state aid rules (Article 87(1))
because it is liable to distort competition, and should therefore
In the wake of the successful switchover in
Berlin, digital terrestrial is now seen as in less need of subsidy
and other regions have not offered a Berlin-style scheme for low
income households. The public broadcasters have committed to bring
digital terrestrial television to 90% of the population, beyond
the major conurbations and into more rural areas. It is expected
that by the end of the 2005 digital terrestrial will be available
to 45 million Germans though only a small fraction will use it.
Completion of analogue terrestrial switch-off
by 2010 in Germany looks very feasible. Germany will almost certainly
be the first major European market to complete the process and
the primary reason for this is its relatively low dependence on
Similarities with the UK include:
collaborative working between the
industry and government;
a leading role for public broadcasters;
a detailed regional switchover timetable;
an open market in affordable receivers.
The most striking differences are:
the predominance of cable and satellite
the scheme to switch isolated "islands"
through short simulcasting periods;
the decision not to provide universal
digital terrestrial coverage;
the greater stress laid on indoor
and portable digital terrestrial reception;
the controversial (now judged illegal)
Berlin subsidy of commercial broadcasters' transmission costs.
4.2.3 Italy: an unusual subsidy policy
The Italian market is dominated by free-to-view
multichannel analogue terrestrial services. There are 11 analogue
terrestrial channels, essentially constituting a duopoly in that
RAI, the public service broadcaster, and Mediaset, the dominant
commercial broadcaster, own three channels each and between them
account for approximately 90% of the audience. In a country with
21.5 million households, cable penetration is low (0.2 million)
and satellite services, though they dominate the pay market, are
limited compared to other countries (2.6 million).
TV over DSL is growing: Fastweb had acquired 138,000 subscribers
by March 2004. Overall, however, as in Spain, terrestrial remains
the dominant means of television viewing and digital terrestrial
is seen as critically important to analogue switch off.
Though Italian regulators regarded the introduction
of digital TV as an opportunity to restructure the terrestrial
sector and introduce more competition, the historic RAI-Mediaset
duopoly continues. Legislation passed in 2001 was modified, controversially,
in 2003: the so-called Gasparri Law overturned an earlier Court
ruling that would have forced Mediaset to give up on one of its
three analogue terrestrial channels in order to promote pluralism.
So Mediaset and RAI retain their hegemony and, at present, digital
terrestrial development rests on cooperation between them.
Mediaset was first to launch in December 2003
with a multiplex of five channels. RAI followed one month later
with two national multiplexes. In January 2004 Telecom Italia
and TV International launched two channels and in February that
year TF1 and HCS (Holland Co-ordinator and Services) reached an
agreement to exploit another multiplex. By the end of 2004, five
multiplexes were in operation:
two multiplexes from RAI (9-10 channels),
one multiplex from Mediaset (five
one multiplex from Telecom/TV International
and one multiplex operated by D-Free
(TF1 & HCS).
The channels carried on each multiplex are decided
by the multiplex operators, but to ensure pluralism, 40% of the
channels on each multiplex must be provided by a third party (except
for RAI's first multiplex). Approximately 25 national channels
and 40 local ones, including the simulcast of the existing national
terrestrial channels, are available in total, with a mixture of
free-to-view and event-based pay-TV services.
The business model for digital terrestrial was originally all
free-to-view, based on advertising revenue. However, led by Mediaset,
the broadcasters decided to challenge Sky Italia in offering premium
content and now offer pay-TV content through pre-pay rechargeable
Italy has had a rapid take-up: by mid-2004,
there was a market of approximately 500,000 digital terrestrial
set-top boxes (the cheapest ones are around 100 euros).
Growth was kick-started by the Italian government's decision to
offer subsidies of 70 euros to consumers (provided they have paid
their licence fee) whotpurchase set-top boxes capable of providing
interactive links to websites with the potential to support e-government
Such digital terrestrial set-top boxes contain MHP (multi-media
home platform) technology. Fastweb boxes can also qualify, but
satellite receivers do not. While Sky Italia has complained about
this, there is at present no indication that the European Commission
will rule against this unique form of subsidy. Few e-government
services are yet available and few receivers have a return path
but trials are underway.
RAI and Mediaset have accompanied the subsidised
receiver purchase scheme with a strong marketing campaign, demonstrating
the close cooperation between the two main broadcasters which
underpins the digital terrestrial venture.
Two other organisations are involved. The "Autorita«
per le Garanzie nelle Communicazioni" (Agcom), is an independent
regulatory body for converged communications, whose two main tasks
assigned by law are to ensure equitable conditions for fair market
competition and to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens.
"Associazione DGTVi" is the Association for the Development
of the Digital Terrestrial TV, composed by RAI, Mediaset, La7
Televisioni, FRT, D-Free and Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, which aims
to cooperate with Agcom and the Ministry of Communications in
the transition from analogue to digital.
While Italy initially launched digital terrestrial
services to 50% of the population, coverage is now being extended
to 70% and the longer term aim is to reach nearly 90% of the population.
Satellite might be used to provide coverage to the remaining areas.
Due to the lack of available spectrum, a long
simulcast period is impractical. Switch-off is therefore officially
planned for the end of 2006 (a date established by law) and will
be organised on a region-by-region basis. A very short transition
period is assumed. The local governments of Sardinia and Val d'Aoste
have already agreed with the national Ministry of Communications
to switch off their analogue signals in 2006. Subsidy may well
be involved. The next candidate for analogue switch-off will probably
be Friuli-Venezia Giulia. More widely, how much force the 2006
target will have in practice remains to be seen.
Similarities with the UK include:
the importance of terrestrial television
and of the free-to-view market,
the leading role played by the public
broadcasters in collaboration with commercial broadcasters in
developing and promoting digital terrestrial television,
the plan to switch off analogue region-by-region.
The differences, however, are considerable:
the earlier (and highly ambitious)
switch-off date introduced by law even before digital terrestrial
the very short simulcast period envisaged,
the lower digital terrestrial coverage
target of around 90%, with the possible use of satellite elsewhere,
the direct subsidy to consumers to
purchase set-top boxes, eg incorporating MHP, linked to a political
commitment to develop TV access to e-government.
4.2.4 France: later terrestrial entry and
The French TV market is characterised by a large
variety of pay-TV operators offering multichannel television through
cable and satellite: Canal+ offers analogue terrestrial pay-TV;
on satellite there are two rival platforms, TPS and Canal Satellite;
cable operators include NOOS, FTC and NC Nume«ricable; while
Neuf Telecom, Free and France Telecom, among others, provide TV
over DSL. Satellite and cable penetration is limited, however.
In a country with 23.5 million households, 3.75 million subscribe
to cable and 4 million to satellite.
As in Spain and Italy, terrestrial remains the dominant means
of television viewing and the existing terrestrial broadcasters
are major players.
France has been a relatively late entrant to
digital terrestrial TV, following strong initial opposition from
commercial broadcasters and lengthy debates about the regulatory
framework (put in place in August 2000 but altered in 2004). Digital
terrestrial was finally launched in 2005, however, with the goal
of analogue switch-off in mind.
The CSA ("Conseil Supe«rior de L'Audiovisuel")
is the regulator which assigns broadcast licences and ART ("Agence
de Re«gulation des Te«le«communications")
is in charge of digital terrestrial network planning.
Finding frequencies has not been easy and has
involved some analogue frequency changes. Digital transmission
obligations are based around providing about 85% coverage from
115 transmitter sites by 2007.
How to cover the rest of the country has not yet been decided
and a Task Force has been created to propose technical, legal
and economic solutions. The analogue switch-off target is 2010
(five years after the launch of digital terrestrial) provided
receiver penetration is high enough.
In other words, this is not a hard date.
Terrestre" (TNT), the first French digital terrestrial service,
was launched on a free-to-view basis on 31 March 2005, branded
"La Te«le«vision Nume«rique pour tous",
digital television for all. Coverage has grown from 35% of the
population in April to 50% during October. A pay-TV launch is
expected to follow by, or before, March 2006.
This represents the outcome of a protracted
regulatory process. Back in 2002 the regulator, the CSA, originally
considered 70 channels' applications to launch on digital terrestrial.
The initial licensed national channels included:
simulcasts by the existing terrestrial
broadcasters who were given the right to a channel (public service
broadcasters have, by law, priority access to spectrum),
six additional free-to-view channels,
and 14 pay-TV channels.
However, in October 2004, in the interest of
pluralism the Conseil D'Etat revoked six of the channels awarded
to Canal+/Lagarde"re: they exceeded the legal limit of six
digital terrestrial channels by any single company. The CSA organised
a public tender to award these six channels plus two more (initially
reserved for the public sector but rejected by the government),
and in May 2005 selected eight new programme services (four free-to-view
and four pay-TV services).
The CSA has decided to reserve three channels
per area, which can be shared, for local and regional broadcasters.
In the Paris region an extra multiplex that will accommodate nine
local services will be established. In October 2005 the regulator
decided to open a public consultation on local channels in the
TNT platform in Ile-de-France, prior to a possible public tender.
This will not be complete until early in 2006.
Digital terrestrial TV in France is following
a hybrid free-pay business model. Eighteen free-to-view national
channels are currently being offered.
Eleven pay-TV national channels
will be on the air by March 2006 at the latest. Cable operators
(not satellite) are obliged to carry the free-to-view channels
in their digital television bundles.
While all other European digital terrestrial
television, including the French free-to-view services, use the
well-established MPEG-2 coding system, France has decided to introduce
a more advanced compression system, MPEG-4, for its digital terrestrial
pay-TV services. Because it is less demanding of spectrum, MPEG-4
is likely to be used in due course for high definition digital
terrestrial television, for which France is making planning provision.
Canal+ and TPS have already been authorised to transmit in MPEG-4
on their respective multiplexes and Eurosport has also been given
permission to begin experimental television transmissions using
MPEG-4 in standard definition. MPEG-4 will be mandatory for digital
terrestrial pay-TV. MPEG-4 pay TV receivers must be able to handle
services from different pay broadcasters.
The decision to require MPEG-4 for digital terrestrial
pay services carries risks, according to a report by consultants
lack of MPEG-4 receivers may cause
delays in pay-TV launch,
upon launch, receiver prices are
likely to be high, potentially limiting take-up,
the use of multiple standards might
lead to market confusion with wider consequences for the platform.
France is also considering mobile television,
based on the DVB-H standard. Not only have Groupe Canal+, SFR
and Nokia announced a joint DVB-H trial to 500 users but TPS has
also announced separately that it will be experimenting with DVB-H.
A commercial launch is unlikely before 2006 or 2007.
Meanwhile growth in MPEG-2 digital terrestrial
TV is underway. The first basic set-top boxes, without interactivity,
were available to buy in the first quarter of 2005. According
to the CSA, reception equipment is now available at prices ranging
from 79 euros to 500 euros and it is possible to use adapters
marketed in certain other European countries. Three months after
its launch, TNT estimated that more than 500,000 receivers had
been sold. By October the figure had reached 685,000. TNT quotes
digital terrestrial penetration at 8% of covered areas and forecasts
sales of 1 million receivers by the end of the year.
While France has many similarities with the
UK in terms of size of market and the importance of terrestrial
broadcasting, the most striking differences are:
its pattern of satellite broadcasting,
with competing pay platforms,
its relatively late entry into digital
its decision to adopt two different
compression standards for digital terrestrial broadcasting: MPEG2
for free-to-view channels and MPEG4 for pay-TV and HDTV,
the "softness" at this
stage of its target analogue switch-off date.
From the above descriptions and analysis, it
is clear that both across the globe and within Europe, several
of the features of digital television are specific to individual
countries and help explain their different experiences and switchover
strategies. Key differences include:
extent of analogue multi-channel
TV before start of digital,
scope for HDTV versus scope for more
standard definition channels,
relative importance of terrestrial
in relation to satellite and cable,
strength of satellite and/or cable
availability of frequencies for digital
terrestrial before analogue switch-off,
role played by public service or
nature and scale of competition among
commercial TV companies,
strength of concern about the prevention
of copying (greater for HD services),
degree of government interest in
interactive services via digital TV,
detail of plans for auctioning and/or
re-using released spectrum.
It is easier to point to differences than to
point confidently at common features and principles, which some
unexpected development in the future could contradict, but the
following observations form a helpful hypothesis at this stage:
1. No country has decided to "skip"
digital terrestrial completely, even countries where terrestrial
reception is least important.
2. No country has launched digital
terrestrial without also adopting an analogue switch-off goal
(implying a compulsory final phase).
3. To facilitate analogue switch-off,
digital terrestrial spectrum needs to be allocated to existing
terrestrial broadcasters (not necessarily exclusively).
4. To facilitate analogue switch-off,
consumers need to be offered a free-to-view option with receivers
available at affordable prices in the open market: in practice
this tends to mean digital terrestrial and/or free-to-view digital
5. Digital terrestrial pay TV is commercially
risky where satellite and cable pay TV is well-established and/or
strongbut hybrid free-pay digital terrestrial can work.
6. Analogue switch-off dates which
are set politically without regard to consumer take-up of digital
TV tend to be postponed.
7. Full switchover is generally easier
in countries where terrestrial reception is of limited importance
and, at least in respect of their main TV set, only a minority
of households are affected.
8. In countries where terrestrial reception
is dominant, high digital penetration achieved during the period
of voluntary take-up is important as a pre-condition of switchover,
since this reduces the number of households whose main TV set
is likely to be analogue at the point of compulsion. Such take-up
does not have to be exclusively digital terrestrial but other
platforms only contribute if they carry digital versions of the
analogue terrestrial services to be withdrawn.
9. Coordination between government,
regulatory bodies, broadcasters, and TV manufacturers and retailers
is important for a number of purposes: from standard-setting at
the outset through to the practicalities of implementing switchover.
10. Possible re-uses for released spectrum
generally include high definition, greater pluralism, and mobile
television, but also go wider than broadcasting.
DIGITAL SWITCHOVER AT AN OVER-SIMPLIFIED
|TV households (hhs)||24.5 million
||13.7 million||36.2 million
||21.5 million||23.5 million||110 million
|Switchover target date||2008-12
|2009 is under consideration
|Importance of terrestrial (analogue/digital) in platform mix
|Role of digital terrestrial in switchover strategy
||Major: full coverage for public services
||Major: RTVE 98% coverage||Minor, though coverage up to 90%
||Substantial: coverage target c. 90%||Substantial: |
coverage target c. 85%
|Modest: only 19% hhs without cable or satellite
||Major role with cable (satellite does not simulcast)
|Approx % digital terrestrial|
hhs (estimate only: current figures not available on standardised basis)
||13%||3%||3% (receivers with ATSC tuner)
||13% (including cable relays)|
|Feasibility of achieving target switchover date
||High||Too soon to say||High
||End date uncertain||Date not hard
||Date not yet hard, but 2009 possible||Too soon to say
Fuller public domain data about digital penetration by platform
and country is available in the Analysys report cited in
the Bibliography at the end of this paper and on the Astra website
6. DIGITAL SWITCHOVERIN
6.1 Objectives of switchover
The broad policy aims of clearing spectrum, modernising infrastructure,
and improving the services to the consumer are shared across the
major countries studied. Uncertainty about the cash value and
potential alternative uses of spectrum is natural given rapid
technological change, but the common potential broadcasting uses
include mobile television, High definition digital terrestrial
television, mobile television, and more digital broadcasters and
channels, including regional and local developments. Where terrestrial
television is a major platform, then increased channel choice
may be an important benefit, but where channel choice is already
widespread through cable or satellite, HDTV, mobile television
and improved quality become more important. Alternative uses outside
broadcasting are proposed in the United States, where there is
a desire to allocate additional spectrum to the emergency services
and perhaps to develop wireless broadband more fully. Options
within Europe will depend on agreements with other countries,
in the context of the major conference on regional spectrum policy
in 2006 and bilaterally as well.
6.2 Public policy intervention
No country has attempted to achieve an entirely "hands-off"
digital switchover process. Collaboration between broadcasters,
receiver manufacturers, government and regulators is necessary
for (a) technical standard-setting and (b) the practical implementation
of the roll out. Government and regulators therefore have been
involved in a range of interventions: from cajoling, facilitating
industry bodies, formalising standard-setting, licensing new spectrum
allocations, and protecting the interests of the consumer. Public
policy has to work with the market, but the market will not deliver
switchover without a public policy framework.
Where there is a major national public service broadcaster,
it has generally taken a central role in pubic policy for switchover,
though this role varies.
A range of other policy levers exists, including mandating
digital tuners in new televisions, voluntary or required labelling
of digital sets, and warning notices on analogue TVs for sale.
These would naturally be the subject of consultation with industry
and, in Europe, any mandatory regulation could have an EU dimension.
While coverage and take-up criteria apply in judging the
timetable, hard dates for switchover are required for both consumer
and investor clarity once the prospect is imminent. Region-by-region
switchover, if practical, has the potential to reduce risk and
assist the logistics.
Subsidy options can arise either in kick-starting digital
television or in completing switchover. EU case law will evolve
following the ruling that a Berlin subsidy was illegal.
6.3 Role of digital terrestrial television
Digital terrestrial has a role in the switchover strategy
of all the countries surveyed here. The pattern of launch of a
pay-TV service, and its collapse and replacement with a free service,
is not unique to the UKSpain has had a similar experience.
The extent of head-on competition with well-established satellite
and/or cable subscription services is a relevant factor. No country
has opted for an all-pay system of digital terrestrial: the emerging
pattern is either fully free-to-view or hybrid free-pay.
Digital terrestrial's role in switchover varies according
to the importance of terrestrial reception and the extent to which
the analogue services to be withdrawn are widely available on
cable and satellite. Even where terrestrial broadcasting has a
minor role, DTT coverage targets are high. Whether full national
coverage should be achieved by digital terrestrial or whether
free-to-view satellite is appropriate as the only non-subscription
option in some areas has been a matter for individual countries
to decide and the resulting picture is a varied one.
6.4 Platform monopoly and pluralism
Fears that switching-off of analogue terrestrial broadcasts
might result in a decline in competition and pluralism by gifting
dominance or near monopoly to one of the platformsparticularly
one partially outside national jurisdictionhave been offset
by the consolidation of the positions of incumbent broadcasters,
whether on a single or multi-platform basis. As noted here, allocating
digital terrestrial spectrum to existing terrestrial broadcasters
has been a common feature of switchover policies. The development
of digital terrestrial television alongside analogue, with restrictions
on spectrum availability, has placed tight limits on the numbers
of new entrants. Whether the freeing-up of additional spectrum
after analogue switch-off will bring greater pluralism will depend
on regulatory priorities and ground-rules at the time the new
spectrum is auctioned or allocated.
6.5 Consumer information on receivers
The purchase by consumers of the right equipment for switchover,
based on reliable and relevant advice, is of critical importance.
At present digital television receivers are predominantly set-top
boxes. However, the market for integrated digital TV sets and
its relationship to the growing popularity of flat-screen TVs
will also be important as analogue switch-off comes into sharper
focus. Because the UK's switchover completion date is so far ahead,
relatively speaking, it faces a lengthy period during which other
new developments, eg high definition and mobile television, may
move beyond the trial stage into implementation, adding complexity
to consumer information about pre-switchover receiver options.
The range of equipment on which television via broadband can be
displayed is also relevant. In the United States explaining the
difference between high definition TVs and HD-ready TVs, not to
mention digital cable-ready TVs, is part of the communications
challenge. Clarity of consumer advice is likely to be of increasing
importance here too.
6.6 UK switchover in a comparative setting
The UK is a major market in which terrestrial reception plays
a major role so switchover is not so simple here as, on present
evidence, it may prove to be in Germanyor even the United
States. However, the UK leads the world in digital take-upmeasured
across all platforms for the main household TVand this
places it in a strong position to complete the process on the
timetable which it has selected. It is in a far more advanced
position than the other major countries where terrestrial has
a major roleJapan, Spain, Italy and Franceand has
been prudent in choosing a later completion date.
Analysys Consultants, 2005. Report on the public policy
treatment of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in communications
markets. Study produced for DG Information Society and Media,
European Commission, 25 August.
Brown, Allan and Picard, Robert (eds.), 2004. Digital Terrestrial
Television in Europe. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bustamante, Enrique (coord.) 2002. Comunicación y Cultura
en la Era Digital. Industrias, mercados y diversidad en Espana.
Bustamante, Enrique (coord.) 2003. Hacia un nuevo sistema mundial
de comunicación: industrias culturales en la era digital.
Frezza, Gino and Sorice, Michele (eds.) 2004. La TV che non
c'e". Scenari dell'innovazione televisiva in Europa en el
Mediterraneo. Salerno: Edizioni 10/17.
Galperin, Hernan, 2004. New Television Old Politics. The transition
to Digital TV in the United States and Britain. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Gaptel, 2005. Televisión Digital. Madrid: Red.es.
Perrucci, Antonio and Richeri, Giuseppe (eds.), 2003. Il mercato
televisivo italiano nel contesto europeo. Bologna: Il Mulino.
Shulzycki Alexander, 2003. DTT in Europe. Market Overview and
Assessment. DigiTAG Exploratory Meeting, European Broadcasting
6 December 2005
FCC, Fifth Report and Order, April 1997. Back
FCC, Second Report and Order, August 2002. Back
FCC, Second Report and Order, November 2005. Back
FCC press release on easing digital TV transition for consumers,
10 September 2003. Back
FCC press release on resolving dual and multicast carriage issues,
10 February 2005. Back
General Accounting Office, Digital Broadcast Television Transition:
Estimated Cost of Supporting Set-Top Boxes to Help Advance the
DTV Transition, (GAO 05-258T, Washington D.C.), 17 February
See, for example, evidence from Motorola and from Aloha
Partners to the Senate Committee on Commerece, Science and Transportation,
12 July 2005. Back
The 9/11 Commission Report, authorised edition W.W. Norton (New
York 2004) p 397. Back
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications,
Japan, Major Aspects of Japan's Broadcasting Policy, December
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications,
Japan, Third Action Plan for the Promotion of Digital Broadcasting,
April 2003. Back
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications,
Japan, Major Aspects of Japan's Broadcasting Policy, December
Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association,
November 2005. Back
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications,
Japan, Third Action Plan for the Promotion of Digital Broadcasting,
April 2003. Back
Association for the Promotion of Digital Broadcasting, November
Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association,
November 2005. Back
Norio Kumabe, Visiting Professor, Global Information and Telecommunication
Studies, Waseda University, Japan, November 2005. Back
Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications,
Japan, Information and Communications in Japan-Building a Ubiquitous
Network Society That Spreads Throughout the World, White Paper
New regulatory framework for electronic communications. Applies
to all transmission infrastructures, irrespective of the types
of services carried over them (the so-called "horizontal"
approach). Therefore, covers all electronic communications networks,
associated facilities and electronic communications services,
including those used to carry broadcasting content such as cable
television networks, terrestrial broadcasting networks, and satellite
broadcasting networks. Regulation of content broadcast over electronic
communications networks (eg radio and television programmes or
TV bouquets) remains outside the scope of the framework. The new
legal framework draws upon the following directives: Framework
Directive, Authorisation Directive, Access Directive, Universal
Service Directive and Directive on privacy and electronic communications.
The framework takes account of the links between transmission
and content regulation. These links concentrate on the following
areas: authorisation of networks and services, allocation and
assignment of radio spectrum; must-carry; access to networks and
associated facilities, including access to application program
interfaces (API) and electronic programme guides (EPG) for interactive
digital television. Back
Communication on a new framework for Electronic Communications
Services: infrastructure, transmission and access services. The
1999 Communications Review; COM 1999 (539). Back
Principles and guidelines for the community's audiovisual
policy in the digital age; COM 1999 (657) final. Back
Communication on the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting
(from digital "witchover" to analogue `switch-off);
COM 2003 (541) final. Back
Countries will need to coordinate their DTT service roll-out
in border regions with their neighbours. DTT and analogue television
services will need to be protected against interference while
limited frequencies must be shared. Currently, negotiations are
underway at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with
the aim of putting together a frequency plan for an all-digital
broadcast environment for Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. The
year 2038 has currently been retained as the theoretically final
date for analogue switch off. Back
Communication i2010-A European information society for growth
and jobs; COM (2005) 229 final. Back
Three communications have been adopted: A market-based approach
to spectrum management in the European Union; COM (2005) 400
final. A forward-looking radio spectrum policy for the European
Union: Second Annual Report; COM (2005) 411 final. EU spectrum
policy priorities for the digital switchover in the context of
the upcoming ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference 2006 (RRC-06);
COM (2005) 461 final. Back
End 2003, European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO). Back
2004, CMT. Back
Quiero's failure can be ascribed to: (a) its relative weakness
compared to the other pay-TV platforms (couldn't compete against
them because never had a real differentiated offering-14 channels,
lack of prime unique content-; and had to face some technical
problems with reception); (b) important financial losses (high
costs and low margins for premium content-soccer rights-; high
network costs; subsidised set-top boxes and monthly fee discounts);
(c) and a management strategy emphasising access to Internet through
the TV set. Back
Once launched, it will have to broadcast to at least 40% by the
end of its first year in digital as well as analogue. Back
Telecinco will offer a channel devoted to fiction and another
to sports, Antena 3 one channel dedicated to children and one
service aimed at women, while Cuatro will broadcast a news channel
and another dedicated to music. Back
Cinco D-«as, "400.000 sintonizadores de TDT se han
vendido este an¥o", 15/11/2005. Back
February 2005, Analysys. Back
DTT map in http://www.ueberallfernsehen.de/ Back
If in Berlin seven multiplexes of four channels each have been
assigned, in Bremen/Unterweser between five and seven (four-five
channels each), in Hannover five (four channels each) and in Cologne/
Bonn six (four channels each). Back
Screen Digest, "Cost of buying into European DTT",
August 2004, No 395. Back
February 2005, Analysys. Back
A detailed offering can be found at http://www.dgtvi.it/stat/DGTVi/Page1.html Back
Recent STB prices comparisons at http://www.trovaprezzi.it/categoria.aspx?id=79&libera=MHP Back
Paolo Romani, deputy minister of communications, has announced
that 110 million euros have been included in the 2006 budget in
order to help households purchase interactive STBs. Even though,
is likely that the amount of the subsidy will decrease from 70
to 50 euros per household. Back
February 2005, Analysys. Back
a report can be found on the 2007 coverage requirements. Back
DTT map at http://www.tnt-france.com/calendrier-tnt.php Back
Details at http://www.tnt-gratuite.fr/ Back