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Full Digitalization by 2008?

Digital broadcasting is a key aim for China's TV industry, said a senior official from the State Administration of Broadcast, Film and Television.

At the "21st Century Broadcast Media Summit" held in Beijing on Sunday, World Television Day, officials talked with private and foreign media and bank representatives on the theme of digitalization.

Xu Guangchun, director-general of the administration, outlined the steps needed: firstly the ongoing digitalization of cable TV, secondly the operation of digital satellites and terrestrial digital TV testing in around 2005, and thirdly the full implementation of terrestrial digital TV in 2008, when Beijing holds the Olympic Games.

"Our goal is to end analogue broadcasts by 2015 with the nationwide coverage of cable, satellite and wireless transmission," he claimed.

China now boasts 500 million radios, 400 million TVs and nearly 500 million VCD and DVD players. Cable TV users exceed 100 million. Breakthroughs in digitalizing production and transmission have been made, but most TVs can still only receive analogue signals.

Full digitalization has been spearheaded by several cities: Qingdao in Shandong, Hangzhou in Zhejiang and Foshan in Guangdong. They achieved this by providing free set-top boxes so that people can receive digital signals on ordinary TV sets.

In Hangzhou, the number of digital TV subscribers are soaring by 2,000 per day, and in Qingdao the number is 1,500. In Foshan, subscribers increased by 100,000 in less than a year, said vice-minister of the administration Zhang Haitao.

To date, 70 digital TV channels and 14 digital broadcast programs have been approved, and another 57 digital TV channels and 17 digital broadcast programs are under consideration, Zhang revealed. Digitalization has also gained financial support from the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Finance and State Administration of Taxation.

China's first live broadcast satellite will probably be launched in the first half of 2006, later than planned, with a coverage of 260 million households. The government is considering relevant regulations and policies at present, according to Zhang.

With digitalization, people will have been able to enjoy ordinary TV programs as clear as DVD and audio effects as good as in cinemas, and channel choices will increase from dozens to several hundred. They will also have access to various personalized information services like shopping, weather forecasts, traffic reports and business news, said Zhang.

November 21 was declared World Television Day by the UN in 1996, and this is the first time the event has been marked in China. About 200 executives from domestic and overseas media companies and financial organizations attended the summit, including News Corporation, Sony, Time Warner, International Data Group and Citigroup.

(People's Daily November 22, 2004)

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