Serbia to invest up to E115m in digital switchover

From Branislav Pekic in Rome

The introduction of Digital Terrestrial Television by 2012 will require between E87 million and E115 million, according to the Strategy for the Switchover from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting which has been adopted by the Serbian Government.

Digital broadcasting equipment alone will require some E75 million, a sum which Serbia hopes to secure from international loans. Procurement will take place from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2011, with the paying back of the loans planned from 2015.

Serbia's Ministry for Telecommunications and the Information Society has applied for a E13.5 million grant from the Pre-Accession funds of the European Union for the acquisition of broadcasting equipment and the project has been classified as "high priority", which means that Serbia is likely to receive the necessary funds. The broadcasting equipment will be available to all broadcasters, as the transmission unit of state broadcaster RTS will be separated into a separate company.

The government plans to earmark between E12 million and E40 million in the budget for subsidies to citizens for the acquisition of the set-top boxes. The lower figure will be needed if the E50 subsidy will be issued only to 30,000 less well-off citizens, while the higher amount will be required if E25 subsidies are given to all 1.6 million TV license fee payers. According to the Strategy, the second option will prevail if "the state of the global economy improves”.

Although STBs currently cost between E60 and E70, the Ministry expects that their price will drop to E50 by 2011. The Strategy also foresees that measures will be adopted in the first quarter of 2010 for the stimulation of local manufacturers of STBs and reception equipment.

Serbia has set an ASO deadline of April 4th 2012.

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