Japan delays digital TV

Panel pushes for period of transition

TOKYO — Japan’s Post and Telecommunications Ministry panel has recommended that the complete switchover from analog broadcasts to digital be delayed.

The panel said that the ministry and government should not treat the current 2010 deadline as mandatory and offer broadcasters more flexibility.

The panel also said that period from 2003 to 2010 should be one of transition to terrestrial digital TV. The recommendations are considered policy positions in Japan’s arcane bureaucracy.

The recommendation is yet another in the ministry’s series of reversals on terrestrial digital TV policy over the past two years. In late 1996 and early 1997, the ministry pushed for rapid introduction of digital terrestrial TV, complete with government subsidies, in order to close the gap with the U.S. and Europe. Since then, the government has kicked back the digital startup date as broadcasters complained about conversion costs and frequency allocation problems.

In late June, the telecom ministry said it will delay by 30 months its plan to allocate frequencies for digital terrestrial broadcasting.