Brazil launches digital TV
by The Canadian Press
The government will offer hundreds of millions of dollars in credits to help Brazil adapt to the new era of digital TV, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Sunday night during a ceremony to launch the technology.
"Television cannot be expensive or inaccessible," Silva said.
Based on a standard developed in Japan, Brazilian digital TV will initially only be available in Sao Paulo, the largest city, and is expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro in April.
"It will soon be possible to watch TV (on cellular phones) while walking in the street, going to work," Silva said.
Only a few thousand families in Sao Paulo who have already purchased digital-ready televisions or set-top decoders that let analogue televisions display the new signal will be able to use the new technology immediately.
The price of the decoders - the cheapest currently sells for about $280 - has been a major obstacle to digital TV in a country where the minimum wage is some $210 per month.
Silva said Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank would offer $560 million in credits to help lower the cost.
Much of the high cost can be blamed on the adoption of the Japanese standard instead of cheaper systems from Europe and United States, experts say.
Critics say expected investment from Japanese technology companies has not materialized. Brazil is the only country in South America to have adopted the standard, isolating it technologically from the rest of the continent.
Communications Minister Helio Costa defended the system during Sunday's ceremony, saying it was the cheapest available.
Brazil will transmit both digital and analogue signals until 2016, when analogue broadcasts will end.