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Digital TV Moves Forward in Argentina

 “AFSCA approved the public competitions for 82 Open Digital Terrestrial TV licenses in the first eight areas of the country. They will be opened in April and May and correspond to 22 high performance and 60 low performance licenses for for-profit and non-profit organizations.…”.

Luis Valle */ Argentina, March 2015

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A few days ago, the Argentine government adopted a series of measures that may change the situation of open TV. The most important is that for the first time in decades, competitions will be held to grant new licenses of this kind.

Furthermore, five years after the adoption of the ISDP-Tb for Digital TV, the reformulation of UHF Encoded TV will finally begin in order to make room for the new open signals. UHF band channels will begin to be granted to current analog broadcasters so that they can replicate their analog transmissions in digital format (simulcasting). They have only five years to do so through the date of the planned analog switch-off. After that, transmission will only be digital.

Though pay TV is well-established in Argentina, the Open and Free Digital Terrestrial TV which is being promoted through these measures will reach areas and segments of the country that are not yet covered and will present an alternative of good technical quality to pay cable and satellite TV.

In order to meet the deadline set for the analog switch-off, which is scheduled to occur at the end of August 2019, and to achieve the greatest possible development of Open Digital Terrestrial TV, the challenges are:

-Assigning mirror channels to all analog broadcasters;

-Establishing that it is mandatory for all TVs to have a TDA and GINGA tuner and all cell phones One-Seg;

-Establishing that it is mandatory for all apartment buildings to have a collective antenna system that is compatible with the ISDP-Tb standard adopted by Argentina before the analog switch-off;

-Completing deployment of Public Digital Terrestrial TV so that it will have at least the same coverage as the current service with nearly 300 relays of public TV Channel 7;

-Developing the plan to implement the Analog Switch-off in 2019 starting with one city as a pilot case;

-Developing the plan to use the spectrum that is freed after the Analog Switch-off. If possible, it would be dedicated to new Open Digital Terrestrial TV channels;

-Exploring options for interactivity including considering the adaptation of Plan Brasil 4D to Argentina.

Of course, future national administrations must make a commitment to provide continuity for the deployment and development of this process regardless of their political stripes.

Digital Terrestrial TV is a type of broadband electronic communication, preferably in a uni-directional. Given that it can be deployed more quickly, it will cover a very important communications need until two-directional broadband internet coverage is available nation-wide, which will take a few years and many more investments.

There is also a need to update professionals so that they can implement the new channels. Open Digital Terrestrial TV operated by public and private organizations is an excellent tool for educating and broadcasting the national language and identity to even the most far-flung corners, supporting integration because it allows content produced in each region to be presented.

On February 26, the Federal Audiovisual Communication Services Authority (AFSCA for its name in Spanish) approved public competitions for 82 Open Digital Terrestrial TV licenses in the first eight regions of the country.

They will begin in April and May and correspond to 22 high performance and 60 low performance licenses for for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in the Metropolitan Buenos Aires Area (AMBA), Córdoba, Mendoza, Tucumán, Resistencia, Formosa, Comodoro Rivadavia, and Santa Fe.

The Technical Plan for these locations was published on February 27 as AFSCA Resolution 24/2015. On March 2, the General and Specific Guidelines and Conditions were published as well as the corresponding Calls to Public Tender as AFSCA Resolution 39/15.

The AFSCA officials also announced that in the coming days they will submit for review by the National Communications Commission (NCC) the technical plans of another 12 locations in order to continue with the organization of every location in the country in which there is Open Digital TV.

The UHF Band Organizational Plan also was approved. It will relocate license holders who had frequencies assigned to this band, which was being used for encoded UHF services. This is necessary for the development of Digital Terrestrial TV, as set out in AFSCA Resolutions 25 – 34, which were published on February 27.

In this way, progress will continue to be made with the implementation of the Open Digital Terrestrial TV development plan that emerged from Decree 2456/2014, which was drafted after a public hearing was held.

In addition, the National Digital Audiovisual Communication Services Plan and Authorizations for License Holders was approved. It establishes that each preexisting analog TV license holder from the planned locations is to be granted the corresponding digital channel so that it may operate on UHF band. This is conducted in the context of Article 93 of the Audiovisual Communication Services Law, which guarantees preexisting license holders the same conditions for digital TV.

In the Annex of AFSCA Resolution 35/2015, which was published on February 27, the assignments for the CABA, AMBA, La Plata, Córdoba, Mendoza, Resistencia, Santa Fe, and S. M. de Tucumán open channels are set out.

As a first stage, AFSCA also approved the assignment of digital channels to 9 national universities, 9 provincial governments, and the Argentine Catholic Church (8 licenses).

The regulatory authority published a Guide containing information on the various types of providers who can take part in the competition, the guidelines and conditions, the drafting and presentation of the proposal, and the documentation that must be submitted with it.

Service may be provided in License mode (individual or legal entity owns a license whose signal will be multiplexed and broadcast through the licensed operator) or Licensed operator (individual or legal entity that holds a license and is responsible for the multiplexing and transmission of the channel).

The proposal that those interested in the competitions must submit is composed of a file with five elements: staff, partners (for for-profit sector)/legal entity (for not-for-profit entities), assets, technical elements and assessment, and communications.

Starting with the AFSCA resolutions published on February 27 and March 2 (see here), in CABA/AMBA, Channel 9 TELEARTE will carry the UBA channel on digital channel 20. Similarly, Channel 11 TELEFE will carry the Argentine Catholic Church channel on digital channel 21, and Channel 13 ARTEAR will carry the CABA government channel on Channel 35. Other associations are: LA PLATA/AMBA, Channel 32: Channel 2, Government of Buenos Aires; CÓRDOBA, Channel 27: Channel 12, Government of Córdoba; Channel 29: Channel 8, Argentine Catholic Church; Channel 30: UNC, La UNC SA TV and Radio Services; MENDOZA, Channel 28: Channel 9, Government of Mendoza.

The call to competition for new license holders and the assignment of frequencies to provinces and universities represents an opportunity for the entry of new stakeholders into the configuration of the Argentine media system, which is characterized by the dominance of the commercial sector.

* Luis Valle is the director of the Graduate Program in Digital TV Platforms  (UBP).

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