A new policy for cable television would use three-digit numbers for channels and divide channels into eight blocks, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.
Cable system operators are encouraged to conduct trials, it added.
The two-digit channel numbers has created congestion in certain blocks of channels, as well as disputes between channels and operators. The two-digit system also hindered new channels from entering the market.
Under the new policy, channel designations beginning with the number “1” would be “must carry” or family channels; the number “3” would be variety show channels; numbers “5,” “6” and “7” would be news, movies and sports channels respectively; the number “8” would be drama or religious channels; and the number “9” would be music or adult channels. Home shopping channels would be placed between the blocks.
The NCC proposed two solutions for helping viewers adapt to the new numbering system: The two cable numbering systems could coexist for two to three years so that people wanting to watch TVBS on Channel 56 would press either “56” or “556,” or people could watch TVBS on Channel 556 by pressing “56.”
NCC Deputy Chairman and spokesman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said that commissioners adopted the second solution after listening to communications experts and industry representatives at six meetings and a June 2 public hearing.
“As per suggestions from experts, we will encourage cable system operators to begin offering services using the three-digit channel numbering system in a designated area as a trial. This would enable them to gauge the feasibility of the technology, as well as receive feedback from subscribers,” he said.
Operators would be offered incentives to run a trial, Wong said.
“We are mulling removing the cap on service fees by amending the Fee-Charging Standards for Cable Radio and Television System Operators (有線廣播電視系統經營者收費標準),” he said.
“Operators would be given more flexibility in arranging channel lineups with new rules governing planning and channel changes. Meanwhile, a more reasonable division of profits between channel operators and cable system operators would be needed,” he said.
The NCC is considering offering operators subsidies to change subscribers’ set-top boxes, Wong said.
NCC officials estimated it would take at least six months to get the supporting measures in place, saying that operators might be able to start trials next year.
The installation of new set-top boxes is estimated to total up to NT$3 billion (US$100.7 million), while the NCC would only be able to subsidize up to 49 percent of the cost, officials said.
As the Cable Radio and Television Development Fund receives about NT$600 million per year, the commission would secure additional funding.
“Based on our experience of digitizing cable television, it will take three to five years for the entire nation to migrate to the new channel numbering system,” Wong said.
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