Bulgaria will not switch off analogue broadcasting of television signals at the September 1 deadline because of delays in public tenders to buy digital television adapters that will be distributed for free to underprivileged Bulgarians, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) has reported.
According to Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Georgi Todorov, quoted by BNT, the continued analogue broadcasting beyond that deadline did not mean a delay in the implementation of digital broadcasting.
The delayed tenders are for the south-western, south-eastern and central-northern economic planning regions, as well as capital city Sofia (with the exception of the Oborishte district in the capital). In the other economic planning regions – north-western, north-eastern and central-southern, as well as Oborishte district in Sofia – preparations for the switchover are on schedule, but there too the analogue signal might be broadcast beyond the September 1 deadline, BNT said.
“Our main goal is to ensure the opportunity for all people eligible for a free decoded to receive one, and only then shut down the analogue signal,” Todorov was quoted as saying.
BNT quoted Vesselin Bozhkov, head of Bulgaria’s telecommunications regulator, saying that if the Cabinet decides to amend the existing digital switchover plan to extend the broadcasting of the analogue signal, such a decision would cause no technical issues.
However, a bigger issue was to ensure that local television channels did not sign contracts to be broadcast digitally, Bozhkov said. A possible solution was to require that they do so by law, he said.
According to news website Mediapool.bg, the continued EU infringement procedure against Bulgaria over assignment of digital terrestrial broadcasting authorisations was also part of the reason for the delayed switchover.
In January, the European Commission said that it decided to refer Bulgaria to the EU’s Court of Justice over the assignment of the digital broadcast spectrum after finding that the procedure followed by Bulgaria was based on disproportionately restrictive award conditions, leading to the exclusion of potential candidates.
The Commission said that Bulgaria did not comply with the requirements of the Competition Directive when it assigned in 2009 the five spectrum lots available via two tender procedures, limiting without justification the number of companies that could potentially enter the market.
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling on the issue, but said that its decisions did not have retroactive action and could not cancel the tenders.
The tenders were held under the government of the socialist-led tripartite coalition – two of the members of that coalition form the current ruling coalition in Parliament – which was accused by some local observers of attempting to rig the process to favour specific bidders in the tenders to build digital multiplexes (the facilities where multiple channels are compressed to fit in one broadcast frequency).