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Thursday, July 29, 2010


A year left on analog TV

Less than a year remains before the total switch to terrestrial digital TV broadcasts in Japan. Analog TV broadcasts are scheduled to end July 24, 2011. While preparations for the transition are being pushed, many problems must be solved to ensure a smooth transition.

The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan says that by the end of this year, 98.5 percent of the nation's households should be able to receive digital TV broadcast waves. The price of popular 32-inch digital TVs has dropped to around ¥50,000. Government "eco-point" subsidies have helped boost digital TV sales. As of March, the accumulated shipment of digital TVs reached 73.74 million units, and 83.8 percent of Japan's households owned such TVs, the communications ministry reports.

But among households with an annual income of less than ¥2 million, the ownership rate was only 67.5 percent. Free digital tuners — to be connected to analog TVs — are being distributed to as many as 2.7 million households on welfare. Only 820,000 households, or about 30 percent of the households on welfare, applied to receive the tuners by the end of May. The ministry has had difficulty identifying such households in need of the tuners.

Nor has there been good progress in preparing community antenna facilities in the shadows of high buildings. About 6.5 million households are connected to some 60,000 such facilities. As of March, the preparations had been completed at 48 percent of the facilities. A similar situation exists with antenna facilities in mountainous areas. Preparations have been completed at 77 percent of the 20.7 million households in housing complexes that are linked to 2.1 million antenna facilities.

TV is an important infrastructure that provides information indispensable in people's daily lives. In time of disaster, access to TV is critical. A situation in which some households are unable to access vital broadcast information must be avoided. The government should consider postponing the transition deadline if necessary, although the TV industry opposes the idea because of the cost of continuing analog broadcasting.

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