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Monday, November 21, 2011

ABS-CBN TO SPEND P3 BILLION FOR DTV! GMA ALLOCATES P600 MILLION!

The much-awaited issuance of the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) on Digital Terrestrial Television will most likely not happen this year.

Gamaliel Cordoba, commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), told Malaya Business Insight in a phone interview that the government had asked the NTC, along with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), to make a "migration plan" for the smooth shift from analog to digital TV.

Cordoba said that the migration plan must be included in the IRR.

"The migration plan will be included in the IRR," Cordoba said, adding that the issuance will probably happen by early next year.

The rules were originally scheduled for release in June this year, a year after NTC released Memorandum Circular No. 02-06-2010 which sets the standards for digital TV broadcast service.

NTC has chosen Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) as the country’s sole standard for DTT, but the new administration asked the NTC to conduct another review.

The government wants the NTC to compare between European and Japanese standards and find out which is better for the country in terms of technical and cost effectiveness.

Although the country has chosen Japanese standards over the European, the government has yet to sign a formal agreement with Japan. .

The NTC has established a technical working group composed of stakeholders of the television broadcast industry, including the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), for the formulation of the implementing rules and regulation for DTT.

KBP and its members were in favor of Japanese standard because of its affordable set-top boxes and the assistance that the Japanese government promised the Philippines.

Some TV networks have undertaken test broadcasts of digital broadcast using ISDB-T, namely ABS-CBN, Net 25, RPN, IBC 13, Channel 4 and SBN.

But GMA Network Inc., a KBP non-member, preferred Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial 2 (DVB-T2).

Despite the broadcast firms’ different views, the country’s top 3 broadcast stations (GMA, ABS-CBN and TV5) have been investing for the digitalization of their network.

ABS-CBN has estimated to spend P3 billion for migration to Digital TV, P500 million of which have already been spent for the transmitter, acquisitions and film rights, according to Rolando Valdueza, the company’s chief finance officer.

Among the three broadcast network, ABS-CBN through its cable network Sky Cable, introduced its DTV services last May, ahead of its competitors.

The DTV boxes are priced one-time at P2,500 with five free channels and better signal.

The network has conducted test broadcast for the DTT using ISDB-T in Mexico in Pampanga and the towns of San Miguel, San IIdefonso and San Rafael in Bulacan.

Valdueza said that although the company started to conduct a test using Japanese technology, if the government reversed its decision in favor of European standard, it "will have no major impact on the company."

He added that another three to six months delay in issuances of IRR is still "doable".

The delay, however, works in the favor of the GMA Network Inc.

Felipe Gozon, GMA chairman and CEO, said that the delay in the issuance of the IRR has no impact on his company.

"It is good for us. Our people here cannot yet afford [set-top box], you have to give them time, for them to accept the Digital transition were talking to millions of customers," Gozon said.

GMA has allocated P600 million for digital TV.

He stressed, however, that GMA’s equipment are digital ready.

The DTT allows the broadcast network to deliver multiple programs on single channel, using one transmitter, so consumers can watch the programs earlier aired at their own time.

This will also pave the way for the introduction of the mobile TV services, allowing users to watch the station’s TV program via phone.

The Philippines will be the first in Asia to adopt the Japanese standard for digital TV.

By MYLA IGLESIAS

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