By Ed Porto*
Officially launched in Brazil in December 2007, today digital TV covers 46.8 percent of the country, according to data from the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL). What does this mean less than three years out from the end of analog TV broadcasting – which, by decree, is set to end in July 2016? What is the federal government planning to reach the remaining 53.4 percent before the deadline?
According to a report published by ANATEL in May 2012, digital coverage in the country is unequal – while some states, like Amapá, have 80 percent coverage; in others digital TV only reaches the capital.
Another problem for digital TV is the number of channels – there are 1,052 digital channels registered, but only 137 are in operation, according to documents from the Ministry of Communications. What could explain this?
Among the three principal digital TV standards, the Brazilian government chose the Japanese-developed ISDB-T (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial). The same choice was made by other Latin American countries, including Peru, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay.
To speed up digital TV’s adoption in Brazil, the government is studying ways of subsidizing digital sets or converter boxes for the poor. “We need to speed up digitalization, and if there’s not a strong action from the government, we’re going to miss the 2016 goal,” said Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo to the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo in December 2012. According to Bernardo, broadcasters must also be incentivized to step up their digitalization efforts.
In spite of delays, Brazil could be on the right path. That’s the opinion of Guido Lemos, representative of the Brazilian Digital Television System Forum, an association of broadcasters, manufacturers, developers, and research and teaching entities in Brazil. “It’s complicated make the needed investments feasible, mainly for the smaller cities where the return on investment is less and more delayed. The broadcasters, the population, and the government are acting as much as can be expected, considering the socioeconomic conditions of the country,” said Lemos.
What is digital TV?
Beyond the considerable improvement in image and sound quality, digital TV makes viewer interactivity possible with applications and with other viewers. This makes it possible to share information through a network of a program’s viewers, in addition to shopping (t-commerce), learning (t-learning), paying bills and checking balances (t-banking), paying taxes (t-government), etc.
More information can be found on the Brazilian government’s digital TV website.
*Ed Porto is a professor in the Department of Information Science of the Universidade Federal da Paraíba in Brazil. He is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, in the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, through a CAPES grant.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.