From Branislav Pekic in Rome
Digital Terrestrial Television will replace the analogue signal on January 26 in so-called region D5 of Croatia (Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County) where already 70 per cent of the population is prepared for its arrival.
The analogue switch-off will involve the national broadcasters, although viewers in these areas will for some time still be able to watch local TV channels.
The Croatian Government has issued around 1.1 million vouchers for the purchase of the DVB-T receivers and they can be used by the end of this year, by when the whole transition process to DTT should be completed. According to available data, 53 per cent of Croatian households are already equipped with integrated TV sets or digital boxes.
By the end of March, three specialised DTT channels should be on air, broadcasting experimentally six months, before fully launching at the end of 2010, under the condition they receive a concession. They will join the existing national broadcasters (HRT 1, HRT 2, TV Nova and RTL Televizija) that are already available in DVB-T.
After the D5 region, the timetable calls for the analogue switch-off on March 3 in the region D3 (Medjimurje, Varazdin and Koprivnica-Kri_evci), D7 (Zadar and Sibenik-Knin) and D9 (Dubrovnik-Neretva). On July 20 it will be the turn of region D2 (Bjelovar-Bilogor, Virovitica-Podravina, Pozega-Slavonia and Brod-Posavina) and on August 17 the digital signal arrives in the region D6 (Karlovac) and D8 (Split-Dalmatia). Last in line, on October 5, is the region D4 (City of Zagreb, Zagreb County, Sisak-Moslavina, Krapina-Zagorje).
Earlier this month, Croatian telecommunications regulator HAKOM invited expressions of interest for the transmission of specialised DTT channels on digital multiplex B. One of the conditions is that the channels should be on the air by February 28th, an extremely short deadline which favours the national broadcasters or Croatian thematic channels that are already available on satellite (such as Croatian Music Channel, Mini TV, 24Sata.TV or Kapital Network).