Russia to fund digital switchover program

Could include free digital equipment for some

MOSCOW -- The Russian government will launch a state-funded program to support the country's switch to digital TV, scheduled for 2015, while some crucial issues pertaining to the digital switch remain unresolved.

According to Vitaly Stytsko, deputy head of the federal agency for press and mass communications, the biggest problem is how to supply the country's population with equipment for receiving digital TV signal. Earlier, he said, plans had been floated to supply the entire population with free digital equipment, but currently a plan to provide free equipment only for the poorest groups is under consideration.

By the end of the third quarter, a federal program on the switch is likely to be accepted, putting the issue among national priorities. Earlier, other state officials, including culture minister Alexander Avdeyev, said that the switch to digital TV would help to increase the audience of some state-run federal channels, such as Kultura.

Currently, 88.5% of Russia's population has access only to analog free-to-air channels, 11% also have access to cable networks, and just under 1% to satellite television.