France on the way to digital saturation

Switch from analog will be complete by 2011

PARIS -- French TV is well on its way to becoming 100% digital by 2011, with Gallic state secretary in charge of the development of the digital economy Eric Besson outlining a detailed agenda for the nationwide switch from analog to digital on Thursday.

The shift from analog to digital terrestrial television coverage -- known as TNT, or "TV numerique terrestre" in France -- began on March 31, 2005 and as of July 2008 covered 82.3% of the population.

The changeover will continue progressively by geographic zone until Nov. 30, 2011.

The government's 2009 finance plan has set aside 218 million euros ($277.5 million) over the next three years to finance the crossover to digital.

Electronics companies referred to by Besson as "digital ambassadors" will donate a total of 100 million euros ($127.3 million) to elderly or financially challenged consumers "particularly vulnerable to such a technological change," he said.

The country's six major terrestrial networks (TF1, France 2, France 3, Canal Plus, M6 and Arte) will collectively give 120 million euros ($152.8 million). A 15 million euros ($19.1 million) national ad campaign to promote the switchover will launch during the first semester of 2009.