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Brazilian broadcasters warn of ‘digital exclusion’

Industry players attending SET Mid-West, the Seminar on Broadcast Technology and New Media, organised by SET the Brazilian Society for Television Engineering (Sociedade Brasileira de Engenharia de Televisão) in Brasilia, dealing with issues such as the challenges of switching off analogue TV signals in Brazil’s capital city, have drawn attention to the absence of coverage and possible ‘digital exclusion’.

“Brazil has decided to go about this in a manner that is sui generis and different from the rest of the world. In the United Kingdom, nothing happened until coverage was at 98.5 per cent,” advised Gunnar Bedicks, the representative of Seja Digital. “The free-view satellite was supplementary for reaching that target there. In Japan, the switch-off only took place with 100 per cent signal coverage. In Brazil, no coverage target has been set prior to the switch-off. A reception target of 93 per cent has been set, but there is no criteria on coverage. Firstly, we sold the band, then we created models to clean up the band, which should be in place by 2018. Reaching the percentage is extremely difficult to do, but not impossible,” he claimed.

Paulo Henrique Balduino, a director of ABERT, the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters, also touched on the question of coverage. “We did the switch-off here in Brasilia, reaching a digitalisation level of almost 90.92 per cent. The capital proved that the percentage is attainable. We are working to stick to the goals that were stipulated in the ministerial ordinance. Henceforth, several adjustments will be required where coverage is concerned. Another aspect giving us cause for much concern is reception. In spite of the efforts made, there are homes where the installation was not done properly,” he noted.

Among the representatives of TV channels, Fernando Mattos, technical manager of SBT in Brasília, explained that the greatest challenges lay in identifying the areas with a coverage shadow, carrying out the operation with different manufacturers and meeting the stipulated deadlines and costs.

Luciano de Melo Silva, engineering and IT manager at Band TV in Brasília, suggested amending the regulations. “I am putting forward the suggestion to amend the regulations. The black screen means that energy costs are much higher. A white screen would be more viable,” he suggested.

Tomaso Papi, an engineer at TV Record Brasília, stressed that his TV station’s primary objective was to even out the signal coverage. “The second objective is to even out the experience and signal quality. Using the same channel, we tested reception on the move inside a car and a bus, by driving around both the heart of Brasilia (Plano Piloto) and visiting the satellite towns. We used international recommendations for measurement on the move. We drove for more than 6 km around the Federal District (DF) and took over one million samples,” he explained.

Tiago Cunha, an engineer at Globo Brasília, noted that his TV station had begun the digitalisation cycle in 2014 and, for that reason, found it easier to deal with the planning by giving greater thought to people’s reception experience. “The challenge was to leave no receiver behind. We split the population into groups: the elderly, those in need, the negligent and the self-sufficient. Our communication department gave talks in shopping malls, bus stations, parks and colleges, thanks to which we were able to reach out to over 50,000 people who, at the very least, were introduced to the issue for the first time,” he advised.

Carlos Cauvilla, engineering and technology director at TV Anhanguera, said that his Globo TV affiliate in Goiás took an integrated approach to the operation. “We have a coordinating group involving the human resources, journalism, technology, marketing and scheduling departments. We also defined a target audience and, based on these different audiences, we defined the actions to be carried out,” he noted.

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