Pay DTT OK'd, Prisa appeals

From David Del Valle in Madrid

The Government is finalising a new set of TV regulations that will pave the way for the launch of pay DTT services, HDTV on DTT; will complete local TV map; allocate the final digital multiplexes and rule on aircraft mobile communications. Later on this year (before December 19th) it will also transpose the new European directive TV without Frontiers with new rules on advertising and International broadcasts.

All those rules will be approved separately regardless of the new Overall TV law (Ley General del Audiovisual) that the Government has failed to approve so far to regulate the whole TV sector. After many months of hot debate, the Government is to give the green light to pay TV services through DTT via a Royal Decree, a plan that has been fiercely criticised by established pay-TV operators like Sogecable, Telefonica or ONO and even telco companies Orange and Vodafone on the grounds that it will be to the benefit of “only a few audiviosual operators (namely DTT operators)” and to the detriment of satellite, cable and ADSL operators. Prisa, owner of pay-TV platform Digital+, has said it will lodge an appeal against government plans to allow all digital TV operators to broadcast a pay channel. Prisa said the changes would damage its TV interests, along with other pay-TV operators.

The Administration is also putting emphasis on HDTV as the new development in DTT once the analogue switch-off takes place in April 2010. HDTV on DTT will be able to be operated by all those TV companies with at least one digital multiplex and an authorisation. Apart from the public group RTVE, with two multiplexes (four channels each), there will be other six private operators with one multiplex each from 2010: Antena 3, Telecinco, Sogecable, La Sexta, Veo TV and Net TV.

The Government will also urge the Electronic Industry to promote the sale of TV sets able to receive DTT and HDTV from April 2010 as a way to foster the development of HDTV. TVE has already announced that it will launch a specific HDTV channel.

Through a Royal Decree, the Administration will also allocate the final digital multiplexes with all the channels keeping their current frequency, except for La Sexta, Veo TV and Net TV, with new channels, 67, 66 and 68, respectively. DTT will use the frequency bands from 21 to 60, leaving channels from 61 to 69 (the digital divident) to bandwidth telco operators for mobile services.

The Administration will also rule the local TV market laying out the conditions that local TV networks must meet to continue broadcasting. The aim is to clarify and put in order the Spanish local TV market that counts with more than 1,000 TV stations, many of them operating without a legal licence.

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