ASEAN reaches agreement on specifications for Set-top Boxes and Analogue Broadcasting Switch-off

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Recommendations will be put forward for endorsement by the AMRI (2009)

SINGAPORE — ASEAN countries are working closely to set digital television standards and policies and to create content for digital broadcasting, in preparation for the global trend for broadcasters to transit from analogue to digital broadcasting over the next 5 to 10 years.

The 6th ASEAN Digital Broadcasting (ADB) Meeting, co-chaired by Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, in Singapore on 19 June 2008, successfully concluded with officials agreeing on a common set of technical specifications for Standard Definition and High Definition digital set-top-boxes for ASEAN. Progress was also made on discussions on policy parameters for ASEAN countries in considering the strategies and schedule for the switch-over to digital broadcasting, and closer collaborations forged on high definition (HD) content development.

About 60 delegates comprising policy makers, regulators and broadcasters from seven ASEAN countries – Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and the ASEAN Secretariat attended the 6th ADB Meeting. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Inaugural Regional Seminar on Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting held on 16-18 June 2008, organized by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and other international partners.

The alignment of technical specification standards for set-top-boxes will create economies of scale for equipment manufacturers and help lower the prices of set-top boxes for regional consumers. The members also proposed that ASEAN consider adopting Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) as the interactive middleware. MHP is a software that enables interactive applications and services to be made available through TV sets.

Discussions on technology standards will continue on 4 areas: exploring interactive TV software costs; MPEG4 licensing issues; establishment of a common Digital TV Sound Standard; and a study of the high-definition 720p/1080i transmission and production formats.

ASEAN also agreed on the establishment of an ASEAN HD Centre which will provide training on HD productions and facilitate HD co-productions within ASEAN. ASEAN members also supported the proposal to produce a 10-part ASEAN documentary series focusing on lifestyle, heritage and culture, aligned with efforts to foster an integrated ASEAN community, as well as provide a window to ASEAN to the global audience.

ASEAN has developed a checklist of key parameters for member states to determine the status of digital TV development in their respective countries. Member states will use this checklist to determine their readiness for analogue switch-off and report their status at the next ADB meeting.

Dr Christopher Chia, Chief Executive Officer of MDA said: “ASEAN as an integrated market represents more than half a billion pairs of television eyeballs. We are thus very pleased that agreements have been reached on various fronts to move the region towards digital switch-on. Banding together through standardization and cooperation will generate economies of scale. This will create further economic spillovers in terms of equipment and consumer electronics design, manufacture and marketing, new marketing avenues and boost the creation of more digital content for ASEAN and international markets.”

Said Yang Mulia Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Ismail bin Pg Haji Mohamed, Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office of Brunei Darussalam: “We have a very clear mandate from the Ministers, to report back to them and make substantive recommendations on the roadmap for Digital TV. The next Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information is scheduled next year. Thus we have about six months to put forward credible recommendations that reflect our professionalism and more importantly, show that ASEAN cooperation is relevant and very much alive.”

The ADB meeting builds on the landmark decision by the AMRI in May 2007 to adopt the European Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T) as ASEAN’s common standard for terrestrial digital broadcasting. Officials were also asked to look into detailed policy considerations in planning for Analogue Switch-Off and to submit a set of recommendations to the next AMRI meeting in 2009.