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Japan's switch to digital signal won't affect on-base TV viewing

But people living off post will need converter boxes to get Japanese channels

TOKYO — Television providers all over Japan are preparing for a nationwide switch from analog to digital television later this summer, but the move will not affect viewers living on U.S. bases in Japan and Okinawa, officials say.

Even those with old-style analog televisions will still be able to view a number of Japanese channels because on-base cable companies will convert the new digital broadcast to a U.S. analog signal.

According to Japan’s Association for Promotion of Digital Broadcasting, analog television broadcasts will cease on July 24 in all parts of Japan except the Tohoku region, which bore the brunt of the March 11 earthquake.

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Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications states on its website that the new digital signal will support high-definition pictures, screening of up to three programs simultaneously on a single channel, subtitles for deaf people, audio commentary for the blind, an electronic program guide, surround sound and various interactive features.

“Terrestrial digital TV broadcasting is a new format of broadcasting that enables the viewer to receive higher quality video and audio signals than conventional analog TV, with no ghost images and no noise,” the website states.

One on-base cable company, Mediatti Broadband Communications on Okinawa, converted to the digital signal earlier this week, but the switch hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped.

Software glitches caused broadcasts to stop for thousands of customers on military bases on Okinawa when the switch was made on Monday, said Mediatti manager Blake Williams.

Predictably, customers became upset.

Lisa Leonardo, who lives at Plaza Housing Area near Camp Foster on Okinawa, said her television stopped receiving channels from Mediatti on Monday. The Marine Corps spouse said that after numerous calls to the cable company failed to fix the problem, she joined a social media group called “I hate Mediatti Broadband Communications (MBC).”

Despite the cable company fixing most of the problems by Wednesday, the group had grown to more than 1,000 members.

“People are upset because they weren’t forewarned (about problems receiving channels),” Leonardo said.

In addition to working out the bugs in the digital signal, Mediatti is providing digital set-top boxes that convert channels to an analog signal for the fewer than 100 customers with old-style analog televisions. Initially customers won’t have to pay for the set-top boxes, but there will be a charge once it’s approved by the military, Williams said.

Similar boxes will be needed by viewers who live off post.

Yokota Air Base Army and Air Force Exchange Service secretary Dave Woodruff said Monday that the digital televisions sold at AAFES stores in Japan are designed for U.S. digital broadcasts and will not receive the new Japanese digital signal off base without a set-top box.

AAFES does not stock the set-top boxes, he said, but the converters are available at Japanese electronics stores. The boxes cost as little as $100 on Okinawa and up to $135 in Tokyo while digital antennas and cables start at $250 on Okinawa and can cost up to $625 in Tokyo, according to a survey of several retailers.

Some Japanese cable television providers’ set-top boxes will automatically convert the new signal to analog, Woodruff said.

For more information about Japanese television’s switch to a digital signal, go to: http://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/joho_tsusin/dtv/english/index_en.html.

robsons@pstripes.osd.mil

 

 

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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