|Photo credit: Sony
Contributed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Government of Japan
On 24 July 2011, as planned, Japan switched
off its analogue television network in all areas,
except those worst hit by the March 11 earthquake
and tsunami. Because of damage from
the disaster, the Japanese government has
postponed the move to digital terrestrial television
in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and
Fukushima until the end of March 2012.
In Japan, the government, broadcasters, manufacturers
and many other stakeholders have made great
efforts to achieve the complete digitization of terrestrial
Various types of digital terrestrial television technology
are used around the world. Japan uses integrated
services digital broadcasting — terrestrial (ISDB-T*).
Digital television allows for better picture and sound
quality, as well as more choice of channels and programmes.
Broadcasters can offer several programmes
simultaneously, using the amount of spectrum required
for only one analogue channel. Moreover, moving to
digital technologies reduces greenhouse-gas emissions
due to a massive — almost tenfold — reduction in the
power consumption of broadcasting transmitters. The
number of transmitters can also be reduced by transmitting
several programmes in one frequency channel.
In Japan, along with ISDB-T, a mobile broadcasting
service called “One-Seg” offers a new viewing experience
without any additional cost. The attractiveness of
digital television broadcasting and the easy access to
its advantages have won the trust of Japanese citizens.
Japan suffered serious damage from the unprecedented
earthquake and tsunami on 11 March, just
before the analogue switch-off date. Now the country
is striving to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure,
with the help of its friends from all over the world and
by deploying an unbeatable national effort (“Ganbaro,
Nippon!!”). Many lives were saved by informing people
of the tsunami alert through One-Seg.
Despite the damage caused by the disaster, the digitization
of terrestrial television broadcasting in Japan
largely took place on the initial target date. By Sunday,
24 July 2011, Japan had completed the digitization
of terrestrial television broadcasting by terminating
analogue broadcasting (except in the regions that suffered
massive damage caused by the earthquake and
Tips for success
Digitization of terrestrial television broadcasting
is a worldwide trend. In Japan, more than 120 million
people, almost the entire population, watch television
via terrestrial broadcasting. Japan is the first country
in the world to implement such a large-scale analogue
In this article, the country’s Ministry of Internal
Affairs and Communications share its tips for success.
Success Tip 1: Offer comprehensive advice to citizens (through the government, broadcasters, manufacturers and electricians working together)
Television broadcasting is a universal service and an
important infrastructure, which most people rely on as
an information source. It is therefore essential to make
television accessible to people who are unfamiliar with
digital technology, especially elderly people and people
with low incomes. With this in mind, the Ministry
of Internal Affairs and Communications in cooperation
with broadcasters, manufacturers and electricians,
put in place a total of 51 support centres (called Digi-
Suppos) for digital terrestrial viewers. These support
centres were located in every prefecture, allowing for
easy access and enabling people to ask questions. In
addition, just before the analogue switch-off, temporary
booths were set up in cooperation with local governments
to support people who had not yet switched to
digital broadcasting. Volunteers also helped by calling
elderly people to confirm that they had switched to
Success Tip 2: Implement measures according to a schedule and a target date
In order to prepare transmission networks, a “master
plan” was publicly announced setting out a schedule for
starting digital broadcasting in each region. The master
plan indicated that digital broadcasting would start in
three metropolitan areas (Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka) by
2003 and in mid-size cities by 2006. The starting dates
for the other regions were also indicated in the plan.
When most of the transmission stations had been
built, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
turned its attention to preparing the social environment
for digital broadcasting. The Digi-Suppos helped
citizens to resolve any difficulties in reception, for example
where signals are blocked by mountainous terrain or
In areas bordering on analogue broadcasting coverage,
where the received signal level is very weak, additional
measures were taken, such as installing shared
receiving facilities or replacing antennas with high-gain
antennas. Where these measures could not be implemented
before the analogue switch-off, the Ministry of
Internal Affairs and Communications and broadcasters
delivered satellite networks as a temporary measure to
broadcast terrestrial television programmes.
Success Tip 3: Increase the availability of digital receivers
Standardizing the minimum functional requirements
for set-top boxes, added to efforts by manufacturers to
improve the technology, have resulted in cheaper products
and hence the spread of digital receivers. In addition,
the government offered incentives for consumers
to purchase and switch to digital televisions (called the
“eco-point” programme). This accelerated the spread
of digital receivers. As a result, there were 25 million
shipments of flat panel televisions in 2010 (compared
with 10 million shipments in 2009). Sales in November
2010 were more than 5 times higher than in November
2009, sparked by an announcement that half the ecopoints
would be closed.
As a safety network for people without digital receivers,
set-top boxes have been distributed free of
charge to low-income households since 2009.
Success Tip 4: Publicize the digital spread rate and the analogue switch-off date through the analogue broadcasting system
The government shared statistics on digitization via
the media. These included the results of a survey on
the spread of household digital receivers and a survey
on viewer’s awareness of the timing of the analogue
switch-off. Reports on the use of shared receiving systems
in apartment complexes were also published.
Viewers were therefore aware that the change-over
to digital television broadcasting was making steady
Suzu city (with approximately 10 thousand house-holds)
in Ishikawa prefecture switched off analogue
broadcasting one year prior to the nationwide analogue
switch-off date. This experience helped in preparing for
the nationwide switch-off of analogue.
Broadcasters notified viewers via an analogue programme
broadcast on all channels that analogue broadcasting
would end on 24 July 2011. The word “analogue”
on the screen informed viewers that they were
watching an analogue programme. From 1 July 2011,
in a final effort to raise awareness, broadcasters superimposed
an image on the screen showing the number
of days remaining until the analogue switch-off. These
measures prevented confusion when analogue television
broadcasting was switched off.
Success Tip 5: Promote the change-over to digital terrestrial television broadcasting using characters and personalities as part of the media strategy
The industry developed various campaigns and
commercials using an animal mascot (see box) as well
as celebrities in different age-groups to act as cheerleaders
to promote the switch-over to digital television.
Promotional clips were screened for fans at professional
baseball and football stadiums, and at horse-racing
tracks. These publicity campaigns created nationwide
familiarity with the switch to digital terrestrial television
broadcasting. Not only that, but also, the spin-off products
based on the animal mascot were great hits!
CHIDEJIKA is the mascot for the terrestrial digital
television campaign in Japan.
“CHIDEJI” means “terrestrial digital television” and “-KA”
is the suffix for “-ization”. “JIKA” also means “deer”.
So “CHIDEJI”+”JIKA”=”CHIDEJIKA” is a play on words
for the campaign symbolized by a deer. The horns of
CHIDEJIKA are in the shape of antennas.
* This standard is described as System C in Recommendation ITU–R BT.1306.