Digital broadcasting strategy
20 February, 2014
Digital broadcasting strategy
Starting from 17 June 2015, Georgia will be able to fulfill international obligations and transmit on terrestrial digital broadcasting. Its government has approved an action plan and is setting up a special agency to implement this. Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, after several months of intensive work, has developed a document that determines main directions and plans for digital television transition. According to Dimitri Kumsishvili, First Deputy Minister of Ec
onomy and Sustainable Development, who presented the action plan on 14 February, the document was developed after taking into consideration requirements of broadcasters, and with active involvement of local non-governmental organizations.
Kumsishvili underlined advantages of the transition for the country, as well as for broadcasters and viewers - digital television will promote media diversity, freedom of speech, and further development of TV broadcasters.
For instance, about 15 digital television channels will broadcast with current frequency in the future. This will allow both existing and new TV broadcasters to have live broadcasts all over Georgia – thus more, better quality, free TV channels. In addition, digital television will have another advantage - fourth generation internet distribution.
After having shifted to digital television, those receiving broadcasts in open air through a “house antenna” will need standard TVs or “set top-boxes” in order to receive digital broadcasting. Set top-boxes will be widely available in Georgia from 2014, and will have distinctive hologram labels that will facilitate identification.
As part of the reform, the government has considered socially vulnerable families, and decided to provide them with set top-boxes; low income families which scored less than 70,000 will receive set top-boxes free of charge; and provisions for those without TVs are being worked on.
To carry out the action plan a Digital Broadcasting Agency will be set up at MOED that will launch a large-scale information campaign about the reform: informative advertisements and videos as well as booklets will be prepared for customers. A hotline will be open, and citizens can receive any detailed information they might be interested in.
According to Ucha Seturi, an analyst at Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), one of the key positive points of the action plan is that it adopts the US model which entails frequencies for regional and local media and allows broadcasting with lower quality equipment. Moreover, the strategy aims to allow the private investor - not the state - to build the broadcasting network and manage it, and this investor will be selected through open competition.
Nevertheless, IDFI indicates several shortcomings that should be addressed in the strategy. One major recommendation is terrestrial network operation rules. Aside from technical regulations, the paper should also define the terms of access to free multiplex platform resources, and identify a tariffs calculation model in order to make tender requirements adequate.
IDFI also disapproves of the direct subsidizing of the Public Broadcast and Tele-Radio Center suggested in the strategy. According to it, out of seven multiplex platforms, the 6th platform is designed for the Public Broadcast channel, and the frequency span will be handed to the state-owned Georgian Tele-Radio Center. IDFI believes this counters the law on Public Broadcast according to which independent Public Broadcast should be free from political and commercial influence, as well as state control. Therefore IDFI recommends granting the frequency to the Public Broadcast for management.

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