To 83-year-old Chiayi County resident Wang Chi-chang (王啟彰), watching TV was not always a fun thing. For years, images on his television set were often blurry, something he attributed to his weakening eyesight as he grew older.
Living in a village that is surrounded by mountains, Wang can only watch five terrestrial TV stations — Taiwan Television, China Television Co, Chinese Television System, Formosa Television (FTV) and the Public Television Service (PTS).
Wang is not alone struggling with poor reception, as village chief Chen Chin-chang (陳金長) has reported a similar problem.
From time to time, Chen liked to tune in to live broadcasts of Major League Baseball games on FTV.
“You watch Wang Chien-ming (王建民) throw the ball and the hitter hits the ball, and you’re eager to see if he just hit a fly ball or a home run,” Chen said. “All of sudden, the image just freezes at the part where the player hit the ball and the signal goes dead. You end up not knowing how the game ended.”
Things are about to change for Wang and Chen and many others, as the National Communications Commission (NCC) has just finished building what is known as a digital TV gap filler. As a result, the number of stations available has grown threefold, with 15 digital TV terrestrial stations and much clearer images.
Wang Chi-chang’s son, Wang Wen-chung (王文忠), who gave his father an LCD flat-panel TV as a present, was happy as well, because his father can now finally watch FTV’s series Night Market Life minus the frustratingly fuzzy images.
The gap filler project was part of the nation’s efforts to facilitate the smooth, if belated, transition from analog to digital terrestrial TV services. Analog broadcasting is scheduled to be phased out by 2012.
As the name indicates, gap fillers fill up the gaps that may occur during the transmission of digital signals.
NCC spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉) said yesterday the commission had budgeted about NT$55 million (US$1.7 million) this year for the project.
Chen said the gap filler in Dapu Township (大浦) was the first one to be completed since the NCC took charge of the project earlier this year. This will help improve the reception of digital TV signals for about 3,000 residents.
The installation of the gap filler in Dapu cost NT$5.26 million, he said.
In addition to Dapu, the NCC is installing gap fillers in Sansing Township (三星), Yilan County; Yuchih Township (魚池), Nantou County; Chashan Village (茶山), Alishan Township (阿里山), Chiayi County; Dakanuwa Village (達卡努瓦), Namasia Township (那瑪夏), Kaohsiung County; Taihe Village (太和), Meishan Township (梅山), Chiayi County; and Mudan Township (牡丹), Pintung County. All are scheduled for completion by the end of this month.
Over the next two years, the NCC plans to build 40 more gap fillers nationwide, Chen said, adding that after the project is finished, 97 percent of the nation would receive the digital signal.
The NCC said that from 2003 until this year, when the NCC took over the project, the Government Information Office had appropriated the budget to build gap fillers and PTS was entrusted with executing it. Prior to the NCC taking over the project, PTS had completed the installation of 24 gap fillers. On average, each gap filler built by PTS cost about NT$15 million, almost three times more than that spent in Dapu.