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Japan to push digital cable

Ministry offers incentives to cable companies

TOKYO — Japan’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will push the country’s cable TV companies to switch to a digital format by 2005 and will offer financial incentives to facilitate the change.

A ministry advisory panel is expected to make the digital CATV recommendation later this month. Its plan is aimed at making cable TV infrastructure compatible with high-speed interactive communications, such as the Internet and cable TV phone service, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, citing industry sources. Ministry officials had no comment on the article.

The ministry’s panel will recommend legislation that will give cable operators tax breaks and low-interest loans to help make the digital switch, and will also encourage consolidation in the industry through mergers and business linkups, the paper said.

Japan has 720 CATV companies, mostly run by local business interests.

The ministry thinks smaller and financially strapped CATV companies may not be able to put up the estimated Y$1 billion ($8.1 million) to install fiber-optic cable for trunk lines and other infrastructure, the paper said.