Reports: China pushes broadcasters to digital

China's broadcasting industry this year will forge ahead toward offering interactive multimedia services, with announcements last week of a national broadcasting conglomerate and of upcoming digital TV trials, according to the official People's Daily newspaper.

A national broadcasting conference was told on Saturday that some viewers in Beijing, Shanghai and the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen near Hong Kong will be able to watch an experimental digital TV service later this year, the paper reported.

The pilot will be carried out using technology developed in China, which holds 26 patents in the field and has formulated seven technical standards for digital TV, the report said. It will be sent to 10,000 households in Shenzhen alone. However, there is no timetable for digital TV sets replacing analog sets in China, the report said.

The government also last week announced it will form a new state-owned enterprise to bring together all of the country's local TV and radio stations into one conglomerate and upgrade their capabilities to provide interactive multimedia services. Almost all of China's cable TV networks offer only one-way transmission and will need to be upgraded if consumers are to send requests or their own communications over the Internet.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) wants to form the conglomerate so the broadcast industry can compete with telecommunications carriers in providing services such as video on demand, Internet access and e-commerce, SARFT Vice Director Zhang Haitao said last week, according to a People's Daily report. He spoke at the opening ceremony of the China Cable Broadcasting 2001 conference. Broadcasters have relied too much on advertising and have been lax in upgrading their technology, Zhang said.

The broadcasting company, to be based in Beijing, will be majority owned by SARFT and will not be open to foreign investment, the report said. It will be valued at more than 10 billion renminbi (US$1.2 billion), Zhang said.

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