Japan has yen for digital TV switch

Analog broadcasts scheduled to end July 2011

TOKYO — Japan’s communications ministry will spend 220 billion yen ($2.05 billion) smoothing the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting, it announced Thursday.

Analog broadcasts are skedded to end on July 24, 2011.

Among measures proposed is the distribution of cheap digital-to-analog tuners to households unable to afford digital sets.

The ministry also plans to support the development of low-cost tuners.

According to a recent ministry survey, only 43.7% of TV households own TVs able to receive DTT.  

The ministry also will underwrite the installation of reception towers so that households whose digital signals are blocked by buildings and other obstacles can receive them.   

It also unveiled measures to defend consumers against dealers who sell unreasonably expensive or unnecessary digital gear.

The ministry plans to complete a comprehensive digital transition plan in August for the fiscal 2009 budget, skedded to go into effect in April.  

On Wednesday, Michisada Hirose, chairman of the National Assn. of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan (NAB), said that commercial broadcasters would spend $841 million on facilities and equipment to complete the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting over the next three fiscal years.

He predicted that up to one third of regional broadcasters would fall into the red due to the digital changeover. 

The 127 NAB members are expected to invest a total of $1.3 billion in moving from analog to digital. They started spending the coin in earnest in 2003 and investment has already amounted to $654 billion.

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