Communications Authority addresses concerns on the digital TV switch-over
Free- to-air television will switch to digital by the end of next year, but a survey by the Malta Communications Authority showed that just over half of respondents did not actually know when the change would take place.
The survey showed that 11.2 percent of Maltese households- 16,000 homes - relied solely on traditional free-to-air analogue TV broadcasts to watch Maltese television programmes.
Traditional free-to-air analogue TV broadcasting - i.e. television signals which can be received free of charge via aerial in analogue form - will be upgraded to digital by the end of 2010.
However, from 2011, viewers will still continue to benefit from free-to-air broadcasting since six slots will be made available for national TV channels on a free-to-air basis, including TVM.
This shift from analogue to digital TV broadcasting - commonly known as the Digital Switch-Over (DSO) - forms part of wider EU and international programmes aimed at enhancing the TV experience.
Benefits of digital television include improved sound and picture quality and a wider choice of TV channels.
The MCA said that when respondents to its survey were asked why they had not subscribed to a pay TV service, 48 percent replied that they are happy with free-to-air TV whilst 35 percent believed that pay TV services were expensive. Almost 19 percent of respondents indicated that they would be considering a subscription to a pay TV service within the next two years.
The digital switchover will affect households which rely on free-to-air analogue broadcasts to watch national TV stations.
Analogue transmissions on the cable network will not be affected since the cable operator is under no obligation to upgrade to digital. Should, however, the cable operator opt to cease analogue transmissions, it is required to include all free-to-air TV channels in its digital TV offerings and to replicate the equivalent of the analogue reception package in digital.
Subscribers of the digital terrestrial pay TV operator will be able to watch any free-to-air digital TV channel via their existing operator-provided set-top box.
In order to benefit from free-to-air TV broadcasting from 2011 onwards, ‘free-to-air' households will need to upgrade their receiving equipment to digital.
Such an upgrade will be only necessary for older TV sets and video recorders which do not have a digital tuner built in.
According to the survey results, 1,920 (12 percent) of the 16,000 households have at least one LCD/Plasma television set. Given that sets of the latter type are more modern than the older ‘TV-tube' televisions, they are likely to have a built-in digital tuner. Thus no upgrade to digital may be necessary.
The MCA said upgrading to digital doesn't need to be expensive. Digital terrestrial TV (DTTV) set-top boxes currently sell for around €30.00 in Europe. One other option would be to purchase a new television set which features an integrated DTTV tuner.
Subscribers of pay TV services do not need to upgrade their existing television and video recorder since the set-top box provided by the respective pay TV operator already converts the signals so that they can be received on an existing (analogue) television or video recorder.
The survey was carried out ahead of the MCA's digital switchover public information campaign scheduled to be launched towards the end of the year.