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 Legislation 20.06.2013 15:59:51
DIGITAL TERRESTRIAL-GO AHEAD-COMMENT / The Government favors state-owned Radiocom in the analogue switchover process
by Mihai Pavelescu / Bucharest (MEDIA EXPRES) / June 20, 2013 / The Government grants one of the five planned digital terrestrial multiplexes without tender to Radiocom, the state company involved in terrestrial carrying the public television signals, way before a selection for the muxes operators to be organized by ANCOM, selection with the deadline of June 17, 2015, according to a Strategy to shift from analogue terrestrial to digital terrestrial that pushes ahead the until now stopped process, made ​public Thursday, June 20, by the press office of the Ministry of Communications.

Government seeks to avoid the contradiction between the reality that a multiplex is being directly awarded to Radiocom, and the fair concurrence principle of a tender, by describing the multiplex with the terms "pilot project" and "experiment".

This multiplex, also called in the Strategy "a conditioned national digital multiplex" will include the "free to air" broadcast of the public televisions and of some of the Romanian private stations which currently use terrestrial analogue broadcasting: they could be for example Pro TV, Antena 1, Prima TV and the news television Realitatea TV.

The Strategy text is somewhat ambiguous in terms of that it makes explicit the granting of all the 5 digital terrestrial national multiplexes following a "selection" by the communications authority ANCOM, while separating the first from the other four apparently intended exclusively for private broadcasters, just to include details of the conditions to be imposed, although then states that the choice for who will operate all of them will happen simultaneously.

If in this selection process will prevail an independent commercial operator or consortium, this will mean at least an implicit privatization of a part of the state-owned company Radiocom, a company that will operate according to the "experiment" conditions at least one digital terrestrial network available for 70% of the population, through the own already existing infrastructure, by June 2015.

Giving away without auction the first multiplex to Radiocom is not an obligation to do, but a kind of permission and will require the approved by the National Broadcasting Authority headed by the "man of prime-minister Ponta" president Laura Georgescu, so this agreement should not be a problem, as one may understand from reading the Strategy text: "the operator currently transmitting by analog means the public television programs can implement, in terms of the Broadcasting Act no.504/2002 art.591 amended and supplemented, an expansion at a national level of the existing experimental digital TV project in the DVB-T standard".

Government's argument for doing so is that this way it will not interrupt the continuity of the public television services to the population, a condition present in the paragraph no. 2.7 below the "Strategic Objectives" subtitle of the Strategy. The same paragraph 2.7 denotes the Government belief that this path will guarantee, at the same time, a "fair competitiveness on the market".

(...) The minimum technical requirements for this project are: broadcast standard DVB-T2, ensuring the coverage of up to 40% of the population until July 1st, 2014, and 70% of the population up to June 17, 2015, and the possibility of using the own infrastructure (that belongs to Radiocom, Editor's Note). (...)

It remains to be seen how the market will react to these proposed developments. It is expected that private televisions to be favorable the Government Strategy, if they will be granted access at a modest price on the first multiplex along with TVR's, a price reduced by the State investment in Radiocom, and the public television tax payers' money.

On the other hand, it is likely that under the conditions of the economic crisis the first multiplex will remain the only one in Romania, amid a cable and satellite TV distribution very competitive, and in which investments have already been made.
(MEDIA EXPRES)



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