Malaysia will launch a digital TV (DTV) trial program to pave the way for the national digitalization drive, Malaysian Deputy Minister of Information Lim Siang Chai said on Wednesday.
The one-year program will cover about 500,000 households in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and some surrounding areas and the government will provide some families with 2000 set-top boxes, or digital receivers, to conduct studies on viewer acceptance, Lim said.
For this trial, Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), which has been selected to lead the DTV project in this country, will launch a new channel on the digital platform by the middle of the year 2006, offering audience with free-to-air digital programs, Lim told reporters, adding that programs at the initial stage will last four to six hours each day.
Lim made the remarks after delivering a speech at the DTV Symposium 2005 of the Association of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU).
There are plans afoot for RTM to open more digital channels free of charge when the nationwide implementation begins by the year 2007 or 2008, Lim said.
The Malaysian government has proposed to shut down all analogue television services in the country by the year 2015, Lim said, adding that the work, to be done in phases, which begin in 2008.
When asked to comment on the possible competition between the free DTV programs provided by RTM and the paid services of the two existing TV operators Astro and MiTV, Lim said it will not create great competition as the latter had their own features.
The transformation from analog to digital technology will " impact not just the broadcasting industry but the nation as a whole in the areas of transmission and distribution infrastructure, business strategies, legal and regulatory as well as social- economic sector," Lim said earlier in his speech at the symposium.
Themed "Challenges for the Broadcaster", the four-day symposium opened on Monday, drawing representatives from more than 30 countries and regions.
The ABU is a non-profit, non-governmental association of broadcasting organizations, with over 150 members from more than 50 countries and regions. It was formed in 1964 to facilitate the development of broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region and to organize cooperative activities among its members.