Japanes make a pitch for digital

Broadcasters get OK'd for license

TOKYO — A group of Japanese broadcasters received preliminary licenses from the government for the transmission of digital terrestrial signals starting in December.

Under the license, pubcaster NHK, five commercial networks and nine local broadcasters in Osaka and Nagoya metro areas will begin testing their digital transmission in June to get ready for the end-of-year launch.

Come December, some 12 million households — or about a third of the total households in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya metropolitan areas — will be covered by the digital transmission. The coverage is expected to rise to nearly 90% by 2006, according to the current plan.

Consumers not ready

However, consumers are yet to jump on the digital bandwagon. Only about two million households have purchased digital TV receivers to watch digital HDTV programs, and many don’t see much additional value for the extra money they would pay for digital TV receivers.

Nevertheless, the government announced a rosy forecast for the dissemination of digital TV receivers a few days ago, with a target set of 100% penetration of Japanese TV households — 48 million total — by the time the existing analog transmission of TV is terminated in 2011.

Sports will push acceptance of the technology, according to forecasts by the government. Ten million households will own 12 million digital TV receivers by the 2006 World Cup Soccer in Germany, and the figures will grow to 24 million households with 36 million digital TV sets by the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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