Italy delays digital TV switch until 2012

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ROME -- Italy has pushed back the date for the start of the switch from traditional analog television technology to digital for four years, meaning the long-awaited process will kick off at the end of 2012 rather than the end of next year, the Italian Ministry of Communications said Tuesday.

The decision comes despite strong incentives to encourage families to buy the digital television sets, including rebates and tax deductions. But those efforts have yielded mixed results, with just 4.9 million of Italy's 21 million digital televisions ready as of July 1, according to the latest available figures.

The ministry said it appeared that too few Italians would be ready for the switch, prompting the delay. All television set purchases that qualified for some financial benefit will still receive that benefit, the ministry said.

Broadcasters can still elect to broadcast using a digital signal, but they will not be required to do so until 2012. Starting in January, television resellers will be barred from selling anything but DTT-ready television as a way to increase the percentage of televisions that will be ready when the switch is finally made.

Most digital televisions can receive traditional analog signals, but analog televisions cannot receive digital signals.

The change was made after the passage of the so-called Gentiloni reform -- which required the switch at the end of 2008, among other changes to the sector -- stalled in parliament. By pushing back the start date for the digital switchover, the reform was given new life -- meaning that other aspects, including a cap on advertising sector market share for any one company, can still become law.
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