Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Digital revolution enters exciting phase

THIRD WAVE The nation's five free-to-air TV stations launched 14 digital TV channels in what is the most comprehensive overhaul of media infrastructure seen in decades

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Yu Shyi-kun, third left, and Government Information Office Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung, far left, attend a ceremony launching digital TV at the Mandarina Crown Hotel yesterday. Also on stage were the managing directors of the five TV stations involved.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Mobile phone, computer and personal data assistant (PDA) owners will be able to watch digital TV on their screens or laptops within two years with the launch yesterday of 14 digital TV channels.

The 14 channels, which are operated by five terrestrial TV stations, represent the completion of the third wave of a revolution in the TV industry, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said.

He also said that the introduction of digital TV was a milestone for the media industry.

"After black-and-white TV in 1962 and color TV in 1969, today's digital TV is without doubt the third wave of the revolution," Yu said at a ceremony yesterday morning.

"And because digital TV offers much clearer images, I'm afraid I'll have to ask the make-up artists to put more make-up on my wrinkly face whenever I'm on," he said.

Digital TV not only opens the door to a digital nation but also delivers a government promise to the people, Yu added.

One of the projects in the Cabinet's NT$2.6 trillion, six-year national development package aims to develop the nation into the most digitalized nation in Asia. The "digital Taiwan" project in particular aims to digitalize the media industry, including TV, radio and film production.

The Cabinet plans to switch the nation completely to digital TV by 2006 or 2008 at the latest, but is locked in a dispute about fees and regulations with cable operators, who supply TV to more than 80 percent of households nationwide.

The Cabinet wants the nation to switch to digital before 2008, when the Olympic Games will be held in Beijing. They will be broadcast entirely in digital format.

The five free-to-air TV channels -- China Television (CTV), Taiwan Television (TTV), China Television System (CTS), Formosa Television (FTV) and the Public Television Service (PTS) -- have spent more than NT$5 billion to make the switch.

The Cabinet also hopes to allow mobile-phone, computer and PDA owners to watch digital TV on their screens or laptops within two years.

Digital TV, like its analog counterpart, is subscription-free. But users will need to buy a decoder box or a new TV set with a built-in decoder.

While decoder boxes cost between NT$4,800 and NT$12,000 and digital TV sets cost more than NT$90,000, the Cabinet is expecting that prices will drop dramatically as they enter mass production.

With regard to digital audio broadcasting (DAB), the Government Information Office (GIO) is accepting applications for eight DAB frequencies reserved for private radio stations starting Aug. 1.

The GIO is envisioning a four-year trial run involving 19 stations, with full operation commencing between one and four years after the completion of the trial period.

Service providers are required to begin their first phase of broadcasting within three years of obtaining licenses. Those who do not do so will risk having their licenses revoked.

DAB promises a wider choice of radio listening, less interference and higher sound quality. To receive DAB, listeners will need to buy receivers costing between NT$5,000 and NT$15,000.

The GIO hopes that the price will eventually fall as low as NT$1,000.

Although DAB receivers are more expensive than standard FM radios, the cost of the receiver is the only outlay that consumers will have to make.

The eight DAB licenses include three national licenses, which will allow broadcasters to offer services throughout the country, including outlying Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

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