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Russia sets analogue switch-off for 2018

September 11, 2013  | Subscribers Only

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According to a project by Russia's Ministry of Communications, analogue switch-off will take place in the whole country by 1 July 2018. The ministry also decided to keep must-carry status exclusively for the channels from country's multiplex 1.

Currently, multiplex 1 broadcasts ten national free-to-air channels; multiplex 2, launched in July 2013, nine. Both multiplexes are operated by the transmission company, RTRS. Five candidates are bidding for one more licence to broadcast on multiplex 2, including Dozhd, O2TV, and Spas, as well as Prof Media-owned TV3 and Pyatnitsa. The result of the bid will be known at the end of September 2013.

Analogue switch-off will take place gradually on a region-by-region basis. The condition to switch off analogue TV signals in a given region is at least 95 per cent of homes able to watch TV other than analogue terrestrial. In the areas where the condition won't be fulfilled, ASO will be postponed.

Published in 2009, Russia's digital transition plan was already changed for a few times. Primarily, the broadcasting standard, which initially was planned to be DVB-T, was changed in the beginning of 2011 to T2. Regions where DVB-T had already launched were required to upgrade to T2, which is planned to be completed by the end of 2013. After some time it became clear that the deadline set in 2006 in Geneva (mid 2015) could not be met. Recently the transmission company, RTRS, announced that 2017 would be a more realistic deadline. Currently, the company is working on the schedule of analogue switch-off which is supposed to be ready by the end of September.

The Ministry of Communications also declined a request from some market players, among others Russia's National Association of Broadcasters, with regards to giving the must carry status to the channels from the second multiplex. In Russia must carry channels receive governmental grants and the ministry saw no funds for additional ten channels. Also, according to the ministry, increasing the number of must carry channels may have a bad impact on the business of cable TV operators.

The authorities have been considering giving the must-carry status to the channels from second multiplex since 2012. The channels broadcasting on multiplex 2 include Ren TV, CTC, Domashnyi, Sport 1, NTV Sport Plus, Zvyezda, Mir and Muz TV. With must-carry status, the channels would be transmitted over the pay TV networks without any fee paid to, nor received from the network operators. Must-carry status is subject to the President's decision and all regulations have to be approved by Parliament. The ultimate decision with regard to the must-carry status for the channels from multiplex 2 is with the president. Nevertheless, the ministry's decision in this case gives a very strong indication as to the authorities' intentions. The eight channels, which should soon be joined by one more, will now start negotiations with the pay TV players as to the conditions of broadcasting on their networks. Big channels, like Ren TV, will very likely demand a fee for transmission, putting pressure particularly on smaller players: disconnecting a big channel from a large network would mean a loss of a considerable part of the channels advertising revenues, much higher than disconnecting the channel from small cable TV networks.

The ASO deadline of mid-2018 is by far the latest set by European countries. Greece is the only country in western Europe which has not switched off analogue terrestrial. In eastern Europe, analogue TV remains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Ukraine and Belarus. Greece is intending to switch off analogue by the end of 2013, Bulgaria by the end of September, Hungary in 2014, and according to Romania's digital strategy, the country will switch off analogue in 2015, as will Ukraine and Bosnia. Also in Serbia, 2015 has been canvassed for ASO, although no transition schedule has yet been prepared by the authorities.

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