LONDON, December 29 (Itar-Tass) —— Russians will be able to receive 15 basic and 50 free commercial channels in five years when digital television becomes available in the country, U.S. businessman Peter Gerwe working in Russia.
Gerwe is the head of Sistema Mass-Media, which is a part of Russia’s AFK Sistema. He also believes that Russia has good prospects for paid digital television channels despite piracy.
Gerwe began working in the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s. He was the founder of Radio Maximum, Russia’s first musical FM radio station, and the STS television channel.
The Russian Far East is already making a transition to digital television as scheduled.
The Far East is the first to move over to digital television broadcasting in Russia. Ten digital television and radio broadcasting facilities have been commissioned in Kamchatka and 49 facilities in the Khabarovsk Territory, which cover 83 percent of the population.
Digital signal is also available in border-lying territories in the Far East. The Kursk region in Central Russia has also officially switched over to digital television
However analogue television service will be discontinued after 95 percent of the population in Russia have obtained digital television decoders.
“Our programme says that analogue broadcasting will be discontinued only after digital service covers a territory of the same size as that where analogue television works, and only after 95 percent of the population have acquired digital decoders,” Minister of Mass Communications Igor Shchegolev said earlier.
“Until then analogue television service will not be terminated. And I would not say that there would be no alternative in this respect,” he added.
The minister said the price of one digital television decoder is 80-100 U.S. dollars.
“If mass produced, the price of decoders will decrease,” he said, adding, “There is a collective digital television reception system. The device costs about 35,000 for a 100-flat house, or about 350 roubles per flat.”
About 10 percent of Russians have digital television at home, Shchegolev said.
“Analogue broadcasting in Russia will continue till the overwhelming majority of people have special digital television decoders,” he said.
“Of course we would like to build an absolutely transparent system, but it should not undermine the existing market of cable and satellite broadcasting operators,” he said, adding, “Their number is growing across the country. And the state intrudes this evolving market with a package of several dozen channels, we can imagine the public reaction. People will decide that now they can get for free what was previously available only for money.”
“Work to deploy digital television is in progress and there is no lagging behind. We have a goal - make digital television available nationwide by 2015,” President Dmitry Medvedev said.
He expressed confidence that “the goal will be achieved because we should not trail behind technological progress”.
He said all residents of Russia should be able to receive at least 24 television channels by 2015.
“The development of digital television and radio broadcasting across the country is a strategic project,” Medvedev said.
“As a result of its implementation, every citizen of Russia will be able to receive at least 24 television channels with improved image and sound characteristics by 2015,” the president said.