France to assess DTT feasibility

PARIS –With France’s private broadcasters skeptical about the economic viability of digital terrestial television (DTT) and culture minister Caterine Tasca pushing for an end-of- 2002 timetable for introduction of the necessary technology, the French government, for the first time, has stepped in to determine DTT’s economic and commercial feasibility.

Finance Minister Laurent Fabius has assigned the daunting task to the DGCCRF, the government’s competition, consumption and fraud repression watchdog.

Stating that it made no sense to “put the cart before the horse,” Fabius — alluding to the Conseil superieur de l’audiovisuel’s (CSA) promise of a report by Dec. 15 — indicated it was better to endure some delay now than to blow the whole DTT experiment later.

The main task of the DGCCRF will be to study distribution questions that until now have been addressed only marginally, specifically questions regarding how to best and most competitively commercialize DTT.

On Oct. 9, 2000, the 90 cable and satellite stations that form the group l’ACCeS, made it known that they would not apply for DTT frequencies until commercialization problems were solved.

It is presently assumed that TPS and/or CanalSatellite will run France’s DTT’s commercialization. No doubt the DGCCRF will study questions concerning a possible monopoly situation, especially in light of a discussed TPS/CanalSatellite merger.

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