The National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday that it would use the Cable Broadcasting Enterprise Development Fund (有線廣播電視事業發展基金) this year to subsidize cable service operators who are planning to provide digital cable services.
The fund is contributed to by cable television service operators, who are obligated to pay 1 percent of their revenue into the fund.
The nation has set a goal of offering full digital cable television services by the end of next year.
However, National Communications Commission Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪) said last week that the penetration rate of digital TV services had only reached 21.3 percent at the end of last year, adding that the penetration rate could be raised slightly to about 30 percent this year.
Nevertheless, Shyr remained upbeat about reaching the goal, as the commission’s statistics show that the number of cable TV service subscribers has dropped below 5 million for the first time in the third quarter of last year.
Subscribers to Chunghwa Telecom’s multimedia-on-demand service, on the other hand, have grown to more than 1 million in only seven years.
The commission said it completed an amendment of the rules governing the Cable Broadcasting Enterprise Development Fund last year, authorizing the government to subsidize the cable TV operators who are planning to offer digital cable services.
The operators would also be asked to offer interactive services to underprivileged subscribers.
The amendment allows the government to provide subsidies more than once should the cable TV operator undergo a drastic change in service technology or suffer irreversible damage to their facilities and need to repair infrastructure in remote areas.
The commission added that digital cable services are the trend of the future.
As the operators need sufficient funds to build the required infrastructure and demand for the digital set-top boxes remains low, the commission hopes that the subsidy could serve as an incentive for operators to invest in digital services.
To accelerate the transition from analogue to digital services, the commission is allowing operators to branch out into other services.
Last year, local governments and the commission had turned down proposals from some operators to raise their charges this year on the grounds that they are building infrastructure for digital services.
Among the 22 counties and cities, 10 told operators to maintain the same charges as last year.
The remaining counties and cities asked operators to reduce their charges by between NT$5 and NT$20.