Hi-tech TV tuning in

EC pushes wide-screen and HDTV

BRUSSELS — A new document released by EU executive arm the European Commission paints a positive future for wide-screen and high-definition TV (HDTV) in Europe.

Wide-screen technology “can help accelerate the transition to digital television,” said the authors of a report on the technology, adding that “the time is ripe for a revival of HDTV.”

The study revealed that wide-screen TVs are selling well. According to Brussels, they already account for 22% of all TVs sold in the EU, and 40% by value. Officials forecast that wide-screen TV receivers and displays will be installed in 60% of households in the current 15 EU member states by 2009, driven by sales of DVDs, flat-panel displays and home cinema systems. This is still some way behind countries like Japan, however, where Brussels says 15 million wide-screen TV sets were sold between 1992 and 2002.

The report added that more co-operation between European broadcasters and between broadcasters and equipment makers on wide-screen technology is needed before it can become a mass-market phenomenon. Few consumers are likely to spend extra money on wide-screen TVs until they know there is enough wide-screen programming available to justify the expense.

As for HDTV, the study said that after “10 years of invisibility,” its profile is starting to rise again. It noted, for example, that the German digital TV platform organization has re-opened its HDTV sub-group after closing it 10 years ago. In addition, the Euro 1080 project has now started HDTV transmissions, partnered by European satellite operator SES Astra.

Astra is also creating a forum to bring together leading TV firms to discuss the introduction of HDTV. Finally in France in October 2003, commercial broadcaster TF1, satcaster TPS and tech firm Sagem sponsored HDTV satellite test transmissions with their partner, Eutelsat.

Brussels believes that all of this points to a bright future for HDTV, although again there needs to be more co-operation between broadcasters and equipment makers to make it a viable option for a majority of Europe’s couch potatoes.

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