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Malaysia’s leading broadcaster, Media Prima, has called on the government to minimise the cost to broadcasters and consumers of rolling out digital-terrestrial television, even asking for “incentives” to ensure the process “will not be an additional burden” in uncertain economic times.

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Trials of DVB-T have been taking place since September 2006 and roll out is set for 2012 with analogue switch off by 2015. The regulator is planning to start the process to select an independent company to provide transmission infrastructure shortly.

Media Prima, which owns free-to-air networks TV3, 8tv, ntv7 and TV9, will itself start a trial of digital broadcasting by the end of this month. The broadcasting infrastructure at the company’s Sri Pentas facility in Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya is already fully digital and ready for the shift from analogue.

Media Prima Berhad’s Group Managing Director/CEO, Abdul Rahman Ahmad, said: “Despite the current challenging economic climate we are excited to be involved in the initiative to develop the landscape of digital services as this will help enhance the quality of services provided by the current broadcast industry.”

But Ahmad added that the introduction of digital TV would be capital intensive and is likely to cost Malaysia over RM1 billion (US$268 million). Therefore, “there is a real need to carefully weigh the costs to be incurred versus the benefits that will accrue from it. The provisioning of digital transmission infrastructure for all broadcasters, both public and private, and the provision of set top box to consumers should be through a neutral and independent party,” he said.

“The business model for digital TV remains unclear even internationally and at the domestic level we are further constrained by the fact that the advertising market is small and such services will face significant competition from existing DTH digital satellite pay services,” he further added.

“Given the current economic situation, there is a critical need to ensure that the cost of rolling-out is minimised to both broadcasters as well consumers whilst ensuring the services and content offered are compelling and attractive to ensure successful adoption,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad did not elaborate on Media Prima’s plans for new channels, if any, but national broadcaster RTM is reportedly planning as many as 19 free-to-air channels, including some high definition services, when DTT launches.

© Rapid TV News 2009

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