How is the global economic crisis likely to impact on the TV industry in Central and Eastern Europe? If what has happened so far this month is anything to go by, difficult times certainly lie ahead.
Only this week, for instance, we have seen bad news coming out of both Estonia and Slovakia. In the former, the future of Kalev Sport, the country’s first sports channel, is looking increasingly bleak, with job losses and a possible change of ownership on the cards. In the latter, the public broadcaster STV faces huge financial difficulties unless it can secure assistance from the state.
However, there is also a feeling that despite all the gloom and doom the show must go on, with the main focus throughout the region being on digitalisation. While some countries are much further down the road than others – the Czech Republic, for instance, is making huge progress – even laggards such as Poland and Romania are finally starting to stir.
In Poland, the transition to digital broadcasting, in the absence of any real direction from the government, has been left in the hands of the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE) and National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), the two industry regulators.
Although well-publicised differences between the two bodies have held back the launch of a DTT platform, they finally appear to be have been resolved and a single multiplex, initially available in six locations, should now make its debut this September.
Meanwhile in Romania, the transition to digital broadcasting has started to move up the agenda, having previously been, to all intents and purposes, a low-priority issue. A DTT platform should make its debut in the country in 2010, though it will, as the National Communications Authority (ANC) has indicated, still require emergency legislation to ensure this happens.
By 2012, when most countries in the region will have completed the transition to digital broadcasting, we will hopefully find ourselves in a more benign economic climate than at present. The TV industry will have moved on and be much stronger thanks to the lessons learnt in these difficult times.