Georgia should step up to adopt digital terrestrial TV
19 September, 2013
Georgia should step up to adopt digital terrestrial TV
To adopt digital terrestrial television by summer of 2015 as stipulated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Georgia needs to allocate more resources and step up its efforts to move the process forward, Transparency International Georgia messaged on 13 September, 2013 through its report on the issue.
In 2006, Georgia assumed an obligation to ITU to move on digital broadcasting by mid-June of 2015 however Georgian Government did not move a finger to advance on the topic until the last
year when the new Government took office. The latter has organized several round-table discussions and initiated working groups on the switchover. Yet the newly undertaken efforts are insignificant as the process has made limited substantial progress with no strategic action plan shaped out so far. If the strategic plan for adopting the digital broadcasting system in the country is not provided as soon as possible, starting from June of 2015 Georgian TV companies will no longer be protected against interception by their competitors from neighboring countries. This will create problems to the end users as well as to companies operating in telecommunication or media sector generally, sector pundits say.
Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development of Georgia (MOED), which is in charge with the digital television adoption process, presented its provisional plan to stakeholders on 26 July, 2013. The plan aims to ensure there is no undue state interference in the sector and budget contributions to the switchover will be cut to a minimum, while also ensuring that the state has ownership or control of at least one digital network [a so-called multiplex – short: MUX can carry approximately 15 TV stations in standard definition or up to 7 channels in high definition]. One multiplex will be controlled or “owned” by the state but might be maintained by a private company. TI Georgia experts have scrutinized on the plan and submitted recommendations to Georgian government to encourage the switchover progress. First of all, TI Georgia experts recommend elaboration of the strategic plan of action and provision for a sustainable, pluralistic broadcast system largely driven by market forces rather than governmental intervention. Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) should be more closely involved in the process. The government should set up a task force consisting of individuals with relevant expertise and experience to ensure consistent progress, coordinate tasks and responsibilities between various government and private sector stakeholders and launch a public information campaign to inform and prepare citizens and stakeholders, such as importers and retailers of equipment, for the switchover.
Instead of seeking to identify only one private operator for the operation of 6 multiplex networks, the MOED should seek to allocate two 3 multiplex networks to two private operators respectively (each of them should be required to allocate one multiplex to free-to-air channels), to achieve the highest possible level of competition.
“The Government should set up and pay into Digitalization Fund, from which costs for subsidized decoder boxes, a public relations campaign and other switchover-related efforts could be covered,” TI Georgia experts say.

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