Chris Dziadul looks at a significant day for CEE
Two unrelated though highly significant developments will take place today (August 31) in Central and East Europe (CEE). In the Czech Republic, the transition to digital broadcasting will finally get under way when Domazlice near the German border becomes the first part of the country to switch off its analogue transmitters. Meanwhile in neighbouring Poland, TVN will become the first broadcaster – not just in the country, but the region as a whole – to begin transmitting in HD.
The European digital switchover target of 2012 increasingly appears to be more of a guideline than something set in stone. While The Netherlands and Luxembourg have already made the move and Finland and Sweden will soon follow, other countries (such as Romania, for instance) have barely taken the first steps. Poland, though by no means a laggard in other areas, has already put its own switch off date back to 2014.
For the Czech Republic, the introduction of digital terrestrial services has been something of a saga punctuated by an unwelcome and still unresolved dispute over the award of digital TV licences. However, unlike most other countries in the region, with perhaps the exception of Estonia and Lithuania, it has made real progress. Two DTT multiplexes are up and running, with viewers in Prague, Brno, Ostrava and of course Domazlice offered what will soon hopefully be a growing number of channels.
TV Nova, it has to be said, has played an important role in the first stages of the transition process despite its dispute with the regulators over digital licences. Besides financing an information campaign, it has contributed CZK1.5 million (€54,243) towards the cost of set-top boxes.
Poland, on the other hand, appears to have taken on the role of regional prime mover in the introduction of HD services. The DTH platform n was the first operation in CEE to offer programming in the format when it made its debut a year ago, and now its sister service, the national commercial broadcaster TVN, is itself starting HD transmissions. Polsat and TVP are soon likely to follow, and by this time next year we can confidently expect most of the country’s leading terrestrial stations, cable operators, DTH services and IPTV platforms to be offering at least some of their programming in HD.
Summer certainly seems to ending on a high note, at least in the Czech Republic and Poland.