Sardinia first to go digital in Italy

System modeled on U.K.'s Freeview platform

MILAN — Most of the Mediterranean island of Sardinia became the first Italian region to switch to digital terrestrial TV on Wednesday.

The change from analog broadcasting to DTT will be complete by the end of the month.

Egidio Viggiani, head of the consortium representing all Italo digital broadcasters, said the prompt switchover in Sardinia was “a little miracle of good will” following earlier disputes and hold-ups.

Digital terrestrial has seen 30% growth in Italy during the first half of 2008, according to Milan media analyst Studio Frasi. There are digital decoders in 6.5 million out of Italy’s 22 million TV homes.

This has encouraged pols. Back in June economic development minister Paolo Romani signaled that the nationwide conversion to digital might be achieved ahead of the 2012 deadline.

Meanwhile, it emerged last week that Italo pubcaster RAI and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s commercial broadcast group Mediaset are launching a free-to-air digital terrestrial platform to drive the switch from analog to digital TV and counter competition from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox.

Tivu will be modeled on Freeview, the U.K.’s free-to-air DTT platform.