Worldwide DTV Update - Japan, Taiwan, England, Malta

A review of articles in the world press last week provided a mixed picture of the DTV transition around the world. The articles pointed to problems in Japan and Taiwan and the success of DTV in England, where more than half the British viewers have digital TV. Malta looks like it is on the way to initiating DTV service.

An editorial at describing the digital transition in Japan states, "digital TV broadcasting is laden with unresolved questions," which include whether government should subsidize local stations having trouble making the DTV conversion and whether customers will be satisfied with restrictions on recording digital programs. The editorial also discusses DTV coverage, interference to analog TV reception and disappointment with "poor programs" and "the frequent abuses that involve TV networks," noting, "even the prospect of many viewers simply opting out of television cannot be ruled out." The editorial, TV's digital evolution - Problems must be fixed before broadcasts begin is available on-line.

Asia Times Online last week ran an article titled Taiwan's digital TV mess which focuses primarily on digital cable, but also mentions the continuing debate between the DVB and ATSC standards for digital broadcasting. It notes China Network Systems and Eastern Multimedia Company favor DVB, while Taiwan Broadband Corporation is fighting for the ATSC standard. Complicating the issue are questions over what digital broadcasting format mainland China will choose.

David Smith, writing in The Observer, examines the DTV transition in England in the article Digital TV passes half-way mark. Note that the 50.4 percent of British viewers counted as having digital television refers to those having access to Sky digital and digital cable TV as well as the terrestrial broadcasting service Freeview. He noted that Sky remains dominant and that "terrestrial channels have been losing viewers as the number of multichannel homes increases." Even with half the viewers having access to DTV, the article says that "without further government investment," the digital switchover date is more likely to be 2014 at the earliest.

The article concludes with a statement from Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary about Britain's DTV transition: "We need to convince people that switchover is good for them. Dual transmission is unfair. Switching off the analogue signal is the only way we can bring digital terrestrial TV to everybody. The continuing use of analogue deprives 20-25 per cent of the population of digital TV coverage, and we simply cannot improve this coverage before we turn analogue off."

The Times of Malta reported the Malta Communications Authority recommended authorities should proceed with a proposal for a new company, Multiplus Ltd., to operate a digital television network and service. This network would compete with existing local cable television, terrestrial and satellite services. In the article Green light for digital TV proposal. Jesmond Bonello quoted sources saying that digital television was undoubtedly superior to cable television or satellite, explaining "First of all no satellite dish is needed and you don't need to live in an area where cable connections are already available. The service will also be superior, with excellent sound and picture quality."