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Spain Near Regulating DTT for Multichannel TV

Madrid, Spain -- The Spanish government is accelerating the
passage of regulations for digital-terrestrial television and, by extension, expediting
DTT's usage as a multichannel-TV medium in Spain -- one of the few countries using it
for something other than high-definition TV.

The regulations are expected to emerge at the end of July,
making Spain one of the world's few markets with a three-way battle for multichannel
customers between DTT, direct-to-home satellite and cable.

DTT is also getting a multichannel application in Britain,
starting later this year, and a few other countries are exploring its uses for
multichannel TV.

"It is a matter of increasing the quantity of TV
channels. High-definition TV might come in the future, but not in the beginning,"
said Jose Aznar, director of Retevision, a Spanish TV-broadcast-retransmission company
that is a major proponent of DTT.

Carlos Abad, general manager of Canal Plus, said Sogecable
(owner of Canal Plus) would participate in the DTT platform that Retevision is already
working to foster. Retevision has invested 50 billion pesetas ($US333 million) in the
development of a DTT technical infrastructure.

While the backers of DTT are excited that the regulations
are likely to pass soon, the acceleration process is disappointing to Spain's three
national private-TV channels and its two public ones.

Under the new regulations, the broadcasters will have to go
digital to renew their broadcasting licenses, which expire in 2000. They see that new
stipulation as a way of forcing them into investing in new technology.

"We don't understand the urgency to activate DTT,
nor why it is linked to the renewal of the broadcasting licenses," said Jorge del
Corral, general secretary of Antena 3TV.

Even Abad agreed with Corral that the process of regulating
DTT is occurring too quickly, "without being debated in Parliament, nor having a
dialogue with the different operators involved."

Rafael Arias, minister of Fomento, the Spanish regulatory
body, said, "We find it suitable to change from analog to digital TV, according to
the expiration of the broadcasting licenses of the three national private-TV channels [in
April 2000].

"The changeover to digital for them all will take
place before 2010," Arias said. Until that time, analog- and digital-broadcasting
technologies will coexist in Spain, but analog transmissions will have to be phased out in
favor of DTT before 2010.

Once DTT is regulated in Spain, proposed DTT operators will
bid for multichannel multiplexes among the 40 slots that will be available, with one-half
designated for national services and one-half for local services.