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Digital b’casts to get early start in Japan

TOKYO — Japan is stepping up its target date for starting terrestrial digital TV broadcasting by about seven years and plans to introduce digital broadcasts in the fall of 1998.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications said it made the decision in order to catch up with Western competitors.

Shuji Kusuda, the ministry’s director general of the Broadcasting Bureau, told a press conference in Tokyo that testing of digital television broadcasts would start in 1998 and Japan “urgently needed to introduce digital broadcasts to keep up with the U.S. and major European nations.”

He said digital broadcasts would allow for a more efficient use of the airwaves and for better picture and sound quality.

The ministry originally planned to start digital testing between 2000 and 2005.

The announcement comes about a week after a ministry advisory panel said the next generation of Japanese satellite television broadcasts should be in a digital format.

After years of contentious bickering among broadcasters, bureaucrats and industry representatives, Japan relinquished its claim of being the sole protector of analog satellite broadcasts when its next generation BS-4 satellite goes into operation around 2000 with a digital format.

The ministry cited the availability of analog to digital converters as a reason for adapting digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasts by the turn of the century.

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