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30m viewers to tune into digital TV across China
( 2003-07-14 08:39) (China Daily)

China is on track to sign up 30 million cable digital television subscribers by 2005. But it still needs to do more to sell the technology to consumers to fulfil its target.

According to a five-year plan drawn up by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, many cities in China will broadcast digital television in two years' time.

Under the plan, the nation is divided into three parts, in addition to the four municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing.

The eastern zone includes Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong provinces, while the western zone includes the Xinjiang Uygur, Tibet, Ningxia Hui and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions and Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. And the central zone is composed of the remaining provinces and regions on the mainland.

Before the year 2005, all cities in the eastern zone, capital cities and a few smaller cities in the central zone, and some capital cities in the western zone will start cable digital broadcasting.

Some 40 Chinese cities and regions have already trialled digital television broadcasts, and more small- and medium-sized cities have announced plans to start digital television broadcasting in one or two years' time.

However, there are still not enough cable digital television subscribers in China.

Many cable TV subscribers still regard watching digital television as a "luxury," since it means adding a decoding device, which costs at least 1,000 yuan (US$120.50), so that their TV sets recognize the digital signal.

"This extra cost has turned the cable TV network into a bottleneck for digital television development," said Wang Xiaojie, an official with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The current cable network is able to transmit 40 to 50 channels at most, leaving no room for further development, she said.

Wang said digital television is a better solution, since it allows for 400 to 500 channels.

When Beijing was hit by SARS and students were ordered to stay home in May, there was only one TV channel available to them, broadcasting one distance learning programme after another for students in different grades.

"But with digital television, we can provide students with one channel of learning programmes per grade," said Wang.

Starting from this month, 33 cities around the country have been designated by the administration to promote cable digital television on a large scale, with the aim of attaching decoders to most TV sets.

Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, has announced it will provide new cable digital television subscribers with the decoder for free.

One of the beneficiaries of this promotion is domestic TV set producers, because programmes broadcast digitally will be shown more clearly on a digital TV set.

"This is the third revolution in television's development history," Sun Guangrong, a senior manager of Xiamen Overseas Chinese Electronic Co Ltd (Xoceco), told China Daily.

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