IRIS Plus 2013-1: The Digital Switchover

Author: Andrei Richter, Faculty of Journalism, Moscow State University

Published: 01/02/2013

The European Commission's report on the telecommunications market and regulatory development (see also IRIS 2012-9/8) describes, among other things, the current status of the introduction of digital television in the EU member states. According to section 5.3.2 of the report, at the time of publication (18 June 2012) it was already clear that Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Greece were the only EU member states that would not have completed the digitisation process before the deadline of 31 December 2012.

But how is the switchover to digital television progressing in other parts of Europe? An overview of the situation in the 11 countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States shows how painfully slow the journey from tried and trusted analogue TV to the pleasure of digital viewing can be, particularly in countries that have not enjoyed decades of free competition and independent media regulation. The lead article examines the numerous stages that had to be and, in some cases, are yet to be completed in order to successfully launch the first multiplex. It looks in particular at numerous legislative amendments, plans and draft strategies, selection procedures, investments and technical aspects, market structures and restructuring, and finally, the role of authorities and state bodies.

However, it is not only in the Commonwealth of Independent States that there are still hurdles to overcome before the post-analogue era is well and truly established or, at least, can finally begin. Planning, legislation, court decisions and accompanying measures are also commonplace within the EU. This is demonstrated in the Related Reporting section, with articles from seven European Union countries written in 2012.

Furthermore, the ZOOM section provides a detailed insight into the progress of the digital switchover in South-East Europe. It summarises the findings of the SEE Digi.TV project, based on an evaluation of the legal and actual situation in ten different countries. By the end of 2012, the digital switchover had reached varying levels of completion in these countries. While Italy, Croatia, Austria and Slovenia had already switched off the analogue signal by the turn of the year, Albania, Hungary, Serbia and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" were still in the transition phase. In Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, the journey towards digital television has not even begun. Nevertheless, the reports on each country have helped to determine the aspects that are important for the successful transition from analogue to digital television. Thanks to the agreement of the project participants and the enormous commitment of the report's author, we are able to include these results in the ZOOM section of this IRIS plus.

The comprehensive contents of this publication show that the transition to digital television is a complex, challenging and lengthy process. A conclusion that is all too easily forgotten when digital channels can finally be accessed so simply at the touch of a button in the living room.