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Digital television switchover controversy

by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Portugal’s national communications authority has admitted that the cost of switching over from analogue to digital TV will be “expensive for some”.

ANACOM (Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações) has admitted that 1.3 million families will be affected by the changeover to Digital Terrestrial Television or TDT, while the Portuguese residents who do not have a digital system will fork out an estimated total of €131 million if they are not to lose their television service.

The change created heated debate in the Portuguese parliament last week with left-wing deputies pointing out that many vulnerable and low income families and individuals, particularly the elderly living in outlying areas, could lose their television services altogether because of either the cost or inability to get a signal.

From yesterday (Thursday) residents in Palmela, Alcácer do Sal, Melides and Sesimbra transferred to TDT. Other towns and regions will follow in further phases on March 22 and April 26.

Still in the first phase, the Algarve’s Fóia-Monchique transmitter and Monchique, Aljezur and Silves’s retransmitters will see analogue television being switched off on January 23.

Thanks to a wall-to-wall television, radio, newspaper and billboard advertising campaign across the country, 72% of the population are aware of TDT but out of the 99.4% of the population who have a TV, nearly 60% don’t know if they have access to a digital signal or not, while 60.6% are worried about the cost of making the change.

So even though €6.5 million was spent on advertising campaigns (€2.5 million from ANACOM and €4 million from Portugal Telecom), it hasn’t proved sufficient, despite the distribution of six million TDT pamphlets.

In fact, some television campaigns have had the opposite effect to the one desired. A case in point is the private cable TV company ZON which may be sued by ANACOM for spreading disinformation to consumers.

ZON has been accused of trying to drum up cable subscribers by suggesting that households had to opt for a paid television service in order to continue to watch any kind of TV at all – including the three main channels RTP, SIC and TVI.    

It was also originally thought that that the entire Portuguese coastline would lose its analogue signal yesterday (Thursday).

In fact, the transition will be carried out in five phases until April – a fact that was not made widely understood to the general public.

On Friday last week, ANACOM stated that there were “a not negligible number of homes that had yet to carry out the necessary preparations and hadn’t thought about doing so”.

In areas which are covered by TDT, households will need to buy a decoder or a pre-adapted television.

Many will also probably have to call out a technician to reset, redirect or install an antenna which could cost, according to ANACOM, up to €110 per set because the average price of a decoder and satellite costs around €40, plus the installation of around €61.

That could work out even more expensive for those who have more than one television at home.

The decision to switch-over to digital terrestrial television was taken by the European Union, which stipulated the change had to be made in 2012, although Poland will only be switching in July 2013. 1″>news