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News 01 Apr 13

Digital Threat to Macedonia's Small TV Stations

Macedonia’s smaller TV stations say the cost involved in the mandatory changeover from analogue to digital signals by June may force many to close.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Local television stations in Macedonia say they do not have enough money to go digital by the June deadline set by the National Broadcasting Council, SRD.

“Smaller TV outlets fear they may have to shut down after the end of the analogue signal,” the Association of Private Media said in a statement.

Under the new rules, the seven TV stations with national broadcasting licenses will have to pay 150,000 euro each annually to One, the mobile operator that the Broadcasting Council has selected to run the so-called digital multiplex.

The other 70 local and regional TV stations will have to pay One 20,000 euro each if they wish to stay on air after June. They will also have to invest at least an additional 10,000 euro each for new digital equipment.

The association said that the prices made digitisation “economically unjustifiable and unacceptable”.

The Broadcasting Council says the deadline for the process, which should give viewers better picture quality, cannot be altered.

“The choice about who will survive in the market is based solely on technical criteria. Those who comply will stay in the game, the others will not, which is a good thing,” said Zoran Trajcevski, the head of SRD.

The most recent data from last year showed that only five of 77 registered commercial TV stations, almost all of them national broadcasters, reported a profit at the end of 2012.

The same data showed that the overwhelming majority of the money made from commercials goes to the big national TV stations, leaving only small portions for the minor players.

Naum Barzov of the small Iris TV station, based in the town of Stip, says digitisation may turn back the clock 25 years to the time when radio was the only way of informing local people.

Digitisation “will leave an empty space, and local problems and accomplishments will remain unnoticed and underreported”, Barzov warned.

“This will open up space for possible abuses by the local authorities,” he said.

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