TS News - RAI Thematic Channel Line Up Uncertain

TELE-satellit News, 11 July 1997

RAI Thematic Channel Line Up Uncertain
  ROME, Italy, 97/07/11 (TS) -- The Italian state television network RAI
has confirmed the launch of three new thematic satellite channels which are
due to start broadcasting from September 29th via RAI' s digital
transponders on the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2 satellite. The channels are to be
called RAISAT 1, 2 and 3 and include a cultural channel (broadcasting 6
hours a day of programming which will be repeated 4 times a day), a
children's channel (9-15 hours a day of programs) and an educational
service (6 hours a day, repeated also 4 times). A "multiethnic" channel is
set to follow as well as an all news radio service.

  Although these new channels will broadcast in the clear (i.e. will not be
scrambled), only viewers equipped with the new digital boxes will be able
to receive them. According to some estimates, no more than 80,000 digital
receivers have been sold in Italy up to now which means that only a
restricted number of viewers will be able to watch the new channels from
day one.

  During a meeting of RAI's administrative council which was held last week
in Rome, the vicedirector general Francesco Mengozzi suggested that the new
channels be broadcast for a certain period of time in parallel in analogue
mode. According to him, there are currently around 750,000 analogue
reception systems in Italy which are capable of receiving analogue channels
from the EUTELSAT satellites and a simulcast of the 3 channels could
drastically increase the number of potential viewers. An additional benefit
would be that the analogue service could serve to promote RAI's new digital

  At the recent Telecommunications Summit held in Naples, Guido Vannucchi,
RAI's vicedirector in charge of new technologies and productions criticised
the simulcast proposal. According to him, "the thematic channels are by
nature digital" and the simulcasting in digital and analogue would create a
vicious circle and would serve only to confuse the consumers, because the
end result of the two transmission modes is very similar and later on it
would be hard to convince the public to buy the digital receivers. He added
that "analogue transmissions would stop the development of the digital
technology", but said that the price of digital receivers is expected to
fall significantly very soon.

  By: Branislav Pekic

(c)TELE-satellit 1997. All rights reserved.

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