Digital switch short-lived in northern Italy


ROME -- Two television channels based in the northern Italian region of Valle d'Aosta are reversing their switch to digital transmission back to analog, a blow to Italy's efforts to migrate all national networks to digital technology over the coming years.

The small and wealthy region of Valle d'Aosta this year became the first Italian region to completely adopt digital signals. But on Thursday, two regional channels -- Rete St-Vincent and the E21 Network -- said they will change back to old-fashioned analog terrestrial signals because laws governing the television sector make it too difficult to broadcast using digital signals while staying within the law.

Italy originally planned to require at least one national network from its two largest broadcasters -- Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI -- to make the switch to digital technologies by 2009, but this month the date was pushed back to 2012.

The culprit was the slow adoption rate by viewers -- as of July 1, only 4.9 million of Italy's 21 million television sets contained the technology needed to receive digital signals.

The government continues to push for the adoption of digital television, offering rebates to buyers of the new high-tech sets that are capable of receiving both digital and terrestrial signals.

The two Valle d'Aosta channels said they plan to switch back to digital technology when it becomes more viable.