Under the initiative of the Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) and Harris Corporation the issues related to the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting were discussed. In the course of the conference held on June 7-8 the Harris representatives talked about the challenges and ways to cope with them. During the meeting Harris Corporation introduced its production to the audience.
Harris Corporation is a leading developer and manufacturer of television and radio broadcast systems and services. Operating in up to 100 countries worldwide the company provides assistance to some of them with the switchover process.
“Georgia now faces a challenge – to switch over to digital broadcasting from 2015. It’s a tremendous work, not for the broadcasters only but for users as well, and the time left is not that much. A special database should be set up, converters should be in place. The government, as well as broadcasters, population and entrepreneurs should be ready for that. Harris aims to keep all parties aware. We would like to take part in the modernization process,” said the Harris representative in Georgia Teimuraz Giorgadze reporting to Media.ge.
The conference was attended by GPB management and members of the GBP Board of Trustees, representatives of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), Ministry of Economy, the Defense Minister Batu Kutelia, Tamar Kintsurashvili of the Security Council, as well as the IREX and EU representatives. Technical staff of different Georgian TV channels and cable companies too showed interest to switchover-related issues.
On the first day of the conference the audience was provided general information, in particular the advantage of digital broadcasting and the way analogue broadcasting was replaced by digital one in Great Britain and the United States.
Andrew Dumbreck of the British company DTG stressed the issues that will make the switchover process a success. According to him it’s important to conduct dialogue with decision makers and manufacturers of technical devices, as well as retailers. Within the switchover process the state policy should be clear and there should be a regulatory framework in place that will help set goals and distribute responsibilities. That will prevent us from further misunderstandings, Andrew Dumbreck said. In addition to all the aforementioned, he said, it’s important to have strict and correct project management, determination of deadlines and correct selection of technologies.
In response to the question how possible it is for Georgia to manage complete all necessary works until June 1, 2015 Dumbreck said it’s hard to say anything for sure. But if starting action right away it is possible to complete work on due time.
Jonathan Levy of the Federal Communications Commission, USA was invited to the conference. He reviewed the switchover process in the United States. In addition he discussed the importance of must-carry rules.
“In the United States, cable television systems and direct-to-home satellite services are subject to “must-carry” rules. Cable operators are required to carry the signals of all free-to-air terrestrial television stations within the local market of the stations. For example, a television station transmitting in Chicago would have to be carried by all cable systems in the Chicago market, but there would NOT be a requirement for cable systems in Los Angeles to carry Chicago television stations. Direct-to-home satellite services are required to carry all free-to-air terrestrial television stations within a local market, IF the service wishes to carry any of the local stations. For example, in a market with five television stations, a satellite service could carry none of them or carry all five of them. It could NOT choose to carry three and choose not to carry the other two.
In the United States, there are commercial television stations and non-commercial educational stations, also called “public” stations. Commercial stations have an additional choice open to them. They may choose “must-carry” status or “retransmission consent” status. If a station chooses must-carry, then it must be carried in accordance with the rules mentioned above, and the station may not receive any compensation in exchange for carriage. If a station chooses retransmission consent, then it may not be carried by a cable or satellite service without the permission of the station, and the station may negotiate compensation from the cable or satellite service. Television stations may not enter into exclusive retransmission consent agreements with a single carrier in a market. Television stations are required to “negotiate in good faith” with cable and satellite systems regarding retransmission consent”, Jonathan Levy pointed out.
On the second day of the conference the Harris Corporation representatives provided technical staff of different TV companies with detailed information on the way analogue signal is replaced by digital one. They also discussed the work to be performed by broadcasters within the switchover process and the technical equipments to be applied.
Even though Georgia has got just three years left to switch over to digital broadcasting thus far the country has not a strategy worked out. On February 14, 2012 the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development re-scheduled the deadline for the strategy elaboration until December 2012.
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