Lazarević: All technical obstacles to the successful completion of the digitalization process have been removed

The first phase of the shut-down of the analogue television signal in Serbia and the transition to digital signal is expected in the second half of 2014. The key answer to this question is to be found in financing. If we had the precise funding today, we would be able to determine the exact date, so it all depends on the speed of providing the necessary funds, said the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and Internal Trade and telecommunications, Stefan Lazarević.

When asked about the number of stages for the transition to digital signal, Lazarević said that the working group in charge of the Transition Plan from Analogue to Digital TV Broadcasting is intensifying its operations these days and that he expects that we will know the exact time of the shut-down of analog broadcasting within a month or two.

How far along in the digitalization process in Serbia are we?

– The conditions for expanding the initial network for broadcasting digital TV and the activation of the equipment that Serbia has received as a donation from the EU have been created, and we have a clear assessment of the funds necessary to complete the process which equal less than half of the initial estimate. The expanded initial network, which was put into operation last week, entails broadcasting a digital signal from 35 locations and covering 75 percent of the population.

We know that the deadline for the completion of digitization in Europe is by the middle of 2015 and that Serbia has set that date as a goal, but what are the chances of us not completing it by that date?

– Now that the initial network is broadcasting a digital signal available to 75 percent of the population, I am more optimistic than I was a year ago. The most important thing is that all the technical obstacles to the successful completion of the digitalization process have been removed. However, the next steps of digitalization depend to a large extent on the speed of providing the necessary financial resources and the speed of adoption of the laws on electronic media and on public services.

What happens if we do not complete the digitalization process by 2015?

– The consequences would be severe. As some neighboring countries are already digitalized, or are close to completing the process, their digital signal could effectively “cover” our analog signal, so that the citizens of Serbia who live primarily in the border areas would not be able to receive TV signals.

How will the Government help citizens purchase the Digital Set-Top Boxes (STBs) without which they will not be able to receive the digital TV signal?

– There is no final decision yet, as it will depend primarily on the available funds. We have an idea how it could be funded and we will try to provide resources to assist citizens in the process of transition to digital broadcasting in the upcoming period.

When should citizens begin to purchase STB devices?

– Citizens will be timely informed about the characteristics of their STBs and the best time to purchase them. We should not rush into buying these devices as their price will decline over time.