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Japan sets 2003 for digital TV

Pressure from b'casters pushes back launch

TOKYO — Japan’s Post and Telecommunications Ministry bowed to pressure from broadcasters worried about the cost of setting up digital broadcast networks and decided Friday to push back the launch of terrestrial digital broadcasts by three years to 2003.

The ministry originally pushed for a 2000 launch for terrestrial digital TV broadcasts but said it wants networks to start digital broadcasts in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya regions by 2003.

The ministry had been pushing for the earlier date because it feared that Japan might lag behind the U.S. and Europe in digital TV technology.

The technology includes new products that bring together TVs, personal computers and various information services to the TV set at home.

The ministry said that by 2010, broadcasters should no longer be offering analog TV service.

The National Assn. of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, the industry’s representative group, said networks were reluctant to make the change to digital format terrestrial broadcasts because of the huge amount of capital that would be needed to make the switch.