Uruguayan DTT plans called into question

Juan Pablo Conti ©RapidTVNews | 10-10-2011

Following calls for more time to consider its proposals on the rollout of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) in Uruguay, the government has extended the public consultation deadline until 14 October.
Last week, the Coalition for a Democratic Communication, a group of Uruguayan NGOs led by the country's Union of Media Workers, had expressed its disagreement with the very short time (seven days) that the Ministry of Industry had given interested parties to discuss the project.
While the Coalition praised what it said were positive aspects contained within the plans (such as the transparency with which new TV frequency licences would be allocated, or the payments that would be required for organisations looking to exploit the radiofrequency resource), it also said there were other issues that it hoped would be readdressed.
Chief among the organisation's concerns is the proposal contained in articles Three and Six of the ministerial decree. In them, the government addresses the fate that would await the broadcast TV channels from Montevideo, the national capital, during the transition period towards analogue switch-off, whose date was set as 21 November, 2015.
What do these articles propose? Article Six authorises "existing commercial analogue broadcast TV licence holders anywhere in the country – under the same terms and conditions set in the original authorisation – to simulcast their current programming on a standard definition digital channel until the analogue switch-off date."
Article Three stipulates reserving one of the proposed seven UHF channels that would be allocated to commercial TV stations to carry the simulcast digital signals belonging to Montevideo's commercial broadcasters.
Since there are three such stations in Montevideo (channels 4, 10 and 12), and since a single UHF channel has enough bandwidth to hold up to six standard digital channels, the Capital's commercial broadcasters would each automatically get an additional channels available to them.
The Coalition is not directly opposed to this. What it does ask, however, is that if this is what's ultimately going to happen, it should be decided via a new spectrum auction process. This, the Coalition argues, would put existing commercial broadcasters on an equal footing with prospective new entrants – be them community TV or commercial TV players.