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Digi delay irks CSA

Org sez it's sticking to timetable; bids begin July

PARIS — The Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), France’s broadcasting authority, took a swipe at the French government Wednesday for dragging its heels on digital terrestrial TV.

France is due to switch to digital by the end of next year, upping the number of terrestrial channels from six to 36.

But while bidding for the channels is scheduled to begin this summer, it is unclear how much public money pubcaster France Television will have to realize its digital ambitions. Having set its sights on six channels, it now seems unlikely to be able to afford more than two or three.

Also still to be resolved is the question of France’s “49% rule,” which limits a single shareholder to a 49% stake in a terrestrial channel. The French government is expected in the coming days to modify the law, following pressure from private broadcasters, but it could take time for the changes to reach the French statute books.

Dominique Baudis, chief of the CSA, which issues broadcasting licenses, said the authority was sticking to its timetable, with bids for digital terrestrial channels being solicited beginning in July. “The quicker these issues are resolved, the quicker digital terrestrial TV can be put in place. If there is a delay, it won’t be because of us.”

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