China has decided to use the European-dominated standard for its digital television (DTV) cable broadcasting as a transitional one as it pushes ahead with its campaign to develop DTV in China.
"Our national standard has not been decided, so we will adopt the digital video broadcasting-cable (DVB-C) standard temporarily," said Bai Weimin, chief of the broadcasting and television division under the Ministry of Information Industry.
She said as the need to start DTV broadcasting becomes more urgent, China will first switch to the European standard.
A home-grown DTV-C standard, which was expected to come out this month, was delayed mainly due to the immature state of technology.
However, Bai said China will eventually adopt its own standard, which will be compatible with the DVB-C standard.
Wang Kuang, general manager of Hangzhou Science and Technology Co Ltd and head of the development team for the DTV-C standard, said the domestic standard will be ready this year and it will have interactive functions, better support for data services and will be easier to use than DVB-C.
Last year, China decided the standard for digital television satellite broadcasting, but it is still working on the other two standards: cable and terrestrial broadcasting.
The ownership of domestic standards is regarded as critical, since the standards affect broadcasting equipment, transmission devices and receivers.
South Korea, which adopted the US-developed ATSC (advanced television system committee) standard, is said to pay US$30-$40 in royalties for every TV set.
If the same fee was applied to China's 100 million cable television users, the Chinese people could face a royalty bill of more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion).
However, the industry cannot wait until the domestic standard is developed because of the need to start digital broadcasting soon.
According to the 10th Five-Year Plan for broadcasting, film and television (2001-05), 30 million households are expected to receive digital TV programmes transmitted via satellites, with another 30 million receiving their signal via cable, by 2005.
"It is already the third year of the 10th Five-Year Plan." said Zhang Haitao, vice-minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). "Time is pressing and the task is demanding, so we should accelerate the pace of change."
The State-level China Central Television will be responsible for building a central programme platform, including paid TV programmes and paid film TV channels, which is expected to transmit digital TV programmes this month.
The SARFT aims to introduce 1 million TV households to digital broadcasting this year.
Digital TV broadcasting, with its high picture quality, large transmission capacity and value-added services, is meant to cover the whole of China by 2010, when the country will stop using the current system of analogue TV broadcasts.
Zhang estimates up to 1 trillion yuan (US$120 billion) will be spent on upgrading current broadcasting systems and buying digital TV sets in the switch to digital TV broadcasting, creating 500,000 jobs in China.