Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Digital broadcast providers ask for clearer policies

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Local digital broadcasting providers expressed delight over incentives to be delivered to TV manufacturers, but said the government should put clear policies in place to help the industry grow.

"We welcome measures that will benefit the industry in any aspect," Charles Wu (吳中立), chief executive officer of Eastern Multimedia Co (東森媒體科技), one of the nation's digital broadcasting providers, said yesterday.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to halve a commodity tax on TVs that contain digital tuners starting from 2006, and grant tax breaks to digital content providers.

`consistent policies'

Digital system providers, which are not subsidized by the government, said all they need is a healthy environment for the industry.

"Consistent policies and supporting measures are still absent, even though the government has been promising to develop the digital TV sector over the past few years," Wu said.

small subscriber base

The government has pledged to bring digital TV service to 85 percent of the nation's households by 2006. However, among more than 5 million TV viewing households in the nation, Eastern Multimedia has a mere 23,000 subscribers in northern Taiwan after launching the service two years ago, while another provider, China Network Systems Co (中嘉網路), has about 30,000 subscribers.

Taiwan Broadband Corp (台灣寬頻), the nation's third digital broadcasting operator, in Taichung, has also garnered only a small number of viewers.

Eastern Multimedia and China Network have previously blamed the Taipei City Government for fixing the prices of set-top boxes or digital decoders, and in turn blocking them from entering the key market.

After holding several public hearings attended by industry players in the past year, the Government Information Office recently removed the pricing cap, as well as a ban on bundling channels.

Another major change is that the content and price of digital TV services only need to be reviewed by the central government, not individual local governments.

not enough

The measure is still not enough to boost the sector, Wu said. For example, the government only came up with the coverage of digital TV by 2006, but failed to set a time to shut down analog signals, which makes content providers and prospective investors hesitant to join the industry, he said.

With a small subscriber base, it's hard to introduce quality programs to local viewers with fairly low prices, Wu added.

Simon Lin (林中龍), associate manager at China Network, also said the government's fluctuating policymaking is holding back the development of digital TV in Taiwan.

"Our service is still not available in southern Taiwan two years after we launched digital broadcasting, because we're afraid that our investment will go nowhere," Lin said.

"We will try to tap the market potential in the region next year," Lin said.

China Network hopes to expand the number of its subscribers to 200,000 by the end of next year, he said.

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