After December, Public Television Will Not Be the Same
By Jesús Aguado
The analogue switch-off in Guanajuato will start on December 11. The Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT) in Guanajuato informed that on the last day of this year, 100 percent of the families in extreme poverty will have their digital TVs.
But what is public digital television? Televisoras Grupo Pacífico explains on their web page that it is latest generation technology for the transmission of a television signal that is broadcast without cables or satellites and is received through a conventional TV antenna. The transmission is exactly the same, it notes, but it does not require more than a television compatible with the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) standard or with a converter from digital to analogue signal (for old televisions).
The Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) established December 31, 2015 as a deadline to switch over public television transmissions from analogue to digital. The switchover has been done step-by-step in the country, starting in 2013 in Tijuana, where the population was not prepared with a digital device or a decoder. As a consequence, more than 14,000 families could not access television channels. Subsequently, the analogue switch-off was canceled for two months to prepare the residents and to allow local elections.
To continue providing the service to those most in need, the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) started handing over digital televisions on the northeast border this year. In the center of the country, the handover was scheduled for January 2015; however, it started on November 10 of last year. SEDESOL’s public relations department informed Atención that they did not have information about the program. They requested a register of beneficiaries of social programs, and those people were selected to receive the televisions. SEDESOL had August 2015 as a deadline to give out all the screens; however, they did not accomplish the plan. At that time, more than 14 million families were supposed to have their new televisions.
According to an employee from SEDESOL who had access to information, 18,834 screens were allocated for this city. At the COMUDE building on the road to Dr. Mora, the beneficiaries started arriving at 4am one day last November to receive their TVs. Access to the press was restricted, and no interviews were permitted inside the building.
Most of those who received the televisions were from rural communities. Some of them talked to Atención, saying that they did not know why they were receiving the TVs. “I think I got lucky in a raffle,” said Demetria Ramírez from Corralejo. Juanita Espinosa commented, “The government loves us and gives us televisions. That is good; but I would have preferred something for my kitchen. I don’t know, something like a refrigerator or a stove. I already have a television.” When Atención asked them what they would watch on their new TVs, they answered, “soap operas, movies, and the news.”
Status of the switch-off in Guanajuato
Juan Enrique Ibáñez Solís, subdirector of communications in the state, and in charge of the analogue switch-off, told Atención that currently SEDESOL has handed out over 97 percent of the televisions provided for the state. However, that fact is inaccurate because in Celaya and León, which are the most populated cities in Guanajuato, 100 percent were covered. For that reason the switch-off will take place in those cities on December 11 this year, and in the rest of the state it will be on December 31. That is how the entire country will be digitalized for television for 2016.
During a presentation about the switch-off in Irapuato, the subsecretary from the SCT, Mónica Aspe, advised that as of this month, SEDESOL has distributed more than seven million televisions in 1,400 municipalities of 29 states in the country. “We will continue the program to accomplish reaching 9.7 million homes,” although that quantity is far removed from the 14 million they had announced in the past. In Guanajuato 400,000 people received a digital screen; that represents 36 percent of the homes in Guanajuato.
Juan Enrique Ibáñez Solís remarked that people who have cable TV or satellite televisions will keep receiving their signal and will not be impacted. Those who have an analogue television can buy a converter that goes from 200 to 1,500 pesos. In San Miguel, they are sold at Mega and Bodega Aurrerá.
Benefits of the digital era
In vehicles in motion (trains, buses, 18-wheelers), the signal comes through with no disturbance. The TV stations can broadcast up to four simultaneous programs. As an example, the national TV Azteca station (channel 13) can transmit on 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, and 13.4. “The exact number of channels will depend on the quality that the companies want to give to their channels. If there is more compression, the quality will be weaker, but it can have more channels on the same signal,” states Televisoras del Pacífico.
The digitalization of the technology brings a signal without noise, interference, or double images. The benefit of digital television is proper reception of content that the audience is watching. The quality of the sound is also improved, and it has the same quality as a CD. The channels, depending on the companies, can have also a menu of languages like a conventional DVD.
Local TV station ready for the analogue switch-off
The local TV station Channel 4 faced the challenge of modernization (change from analogue transmission to digital). However, Luz María Núñez, the executive producer, assured that they are ready for the change of technology.
The executive producer told Atención that in the first part of 2015, the IFT notified them of the decree for changing the technology. According to Núñez, after buying the digital antenna for transmitting at a cost of more than 300,000 pesos, Channel 4 is ready.
Núñez stated that the government merely fulfilled its task of informing them about the change. It did not offer a subsidy for the modernization to Channel 4, which is part of the nonprofit organization Proyección Cultural Sanmiguelense, operating on donations. She commented that Channel 4’s signal is free for people in rural communities and for people in the urban zone who do not have cable TV or a satellite system. Thanks to a federal legal mandate, Channel 4 is included in the cable TV system: Channel 4 on CVR and 83 on Megacable.
In the new digital television system, Channel 4 will be found on Channel 23.
Channel 4 is a cultural channel that started operations 14 years ago. Since its beginning it aimed to give Sanmiguelenses an opportunity to be identified with their culture and traditions along with the opportunity of being in touch with other citizens who live in San Miguel. The cultural programming of the channel is oriented toward creating awareness and analysis of the current affairs.
In March this year, the federal government tendered two new signals for national television. Those new channels represent a direct competition to the national TV Azteca (with 39 percent of the signals in the country) and the empire Televisa that has 225 signals across the country with 56 percent of the national signals.
The winners of the tender were Grupo Radio Centro and Cadena Tres. Each of those groups will have access to 123 TV signals across the country, and in 2016 they will be covering 92 percent of the territory with a market of 106 million people. In the first semester next year, the federal government will tender two more signals.
The digital channels in San Miguel will be the national TV Azteca (7 and 13), Televisa (3, 5, and 22), Channel 4 of San Miguel (that will change to 23), and state TV Cuatro.