Japan to dump outmoded HDTV format by 2003

TOKYO — Japan’s costly romance with analog high-definition television will come to an end by March 2003 as the country joins the U.S. and Europe in promoting digital HDTV, a Japanese financial daily reported.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will approve a policy recommendation to drop analog HDTV later this year, and pubcaster NHK and other broadcasters are likely to support the decision, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.

A Ministry spokesman said the report was inaccurate and a group of 11 TV setmakers said they will continue to market analog HDTV products.

Japan got into the analog HDTV mess by taking the lead in getting products to market in the field.

Digital wins day

NHK, setmakers and other broadcasters spent billions of dollars to develop the analog HDTV system, only to find that the laggards in the U.S. and Europe were able to do much more with the higher-technology digital HDTV format.

The ministry decided that ending the analog format will help increase the number of channels available for satellite broadcasting, the paper said. It also believes that going digital will benefit consumers.

Japan has never before dropped a broadcasting format.

There are currently 700,000 viewers of analog HDTV in Japan. In the year 2000, a Japanese government broadcast satellite will go into operation with a digital format.

All of Japan’s networks are planning to operate HDTV service on the new satellite.

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