Basic channels must switch to HD: commission

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 15, 2018 - Page 3

All basic channels on the nation’s cable systems must start broadcasting content in high-definition (HD) quality by the end of next year, the National Communications Commission said yesterday.

The nation’s cable TV systems would be completely digitized by the end of this year, commission spokesman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said, adding that cable systems would have additional bandwidth to offer broadband communications service, which has become their dividend in the digital age.

The term “basic channels” refers to those below Channel 100, Wong said, adding that about 55 to 60 percent of them already broadcast programs in HD.

Asked what the commission would do if a channel produced content in HD, but the cable system broadcast them in standard definition or vice versa, Wong said the commission has an array of administrative tools to ensure that TV channels and cable system operators follow the policy.

The commission, for example, could examine whether a channel or cable system produces and broadcasts HD programs when conducting biennial performance reviews or reviewing license renewal applications, he said.

When local governments review monthly fees proposed by cable system operators, the commission would advise local government officials on the progress made by the operators in the broadcast of HD programs, Wong added.

The policy involves viewers, channels and cable system operators, and the commission seeks to communicate with all stakeholders, he said.

Most of the channels that need to switch to HD programming are those broadcasting religious content or stock market analysis, Wong said.

The commission also plans to help channels develop 4K and 8K programs, a project overseen by the Ministry of Culture.

The commission might allow cable operators to experiment with 4K or 8K content in certain service areas, Wong said.

Cable Broadband Institute of Taiwan chairwoman Claudia Peng (彭淑芬) said that a lack of incentives is the main obstacle that the nation has to overcome before the broadcast and content quality of basic TV channels can improve.

The government’s excessive regulation of the cable TV industry has led to unfair competition between cable system operators and over-the-top service providers, allowing the latter to skirt broadcast laws and infringe on copyrights, she said, adding that this has gradually eroded the profits of law-abiding operators.

Before cable systems could recover the costs of building infrastructure and recruiting personnel for the digitization of the cable TV service, the commission imposed a cap on monthly cable fees and reduced them annually, making it less likely for cable operators to invest in HD programming, she said.

The cap on monthly fees conflicts with the policy that asks cable operators to provide HD or even 4K content, Peng said, adding that the government should lift the cap and relax the regulations.