Digital Terrestrial: local TVs are at risk, here’s why

Tens of local TVs throughout Italy, especially in the north, could disappear in 2022: here's why and how we can save them with HBBTV and the Internet

Along the road that will take us, in 2023, to the new second-generation digital terrestrial we could lose many beloved companions: we're talking about local TVs, especially those in northern Italy, which could be decimated by the so-called "refarming of frequencies".

The issue is the same that casts doubt on the future of Sky channels on digital terrestrial: as of January 3, 2022 in many Italian regions all TV repeaters broadcasting on the 694-790 MHz frequencies will be switched off. Those frequencies, in fact, already at the end of 2018 the State has "sold" them for 6.5 billion euros to telephone operators, who will use them for 5G. On those frequencies, however, today broadcast dozens and dozens of local TVs, to which the State will assign other frequencies. But there are not enough frequencies for everyone, so a selection is underway from which winners and losers will emerge. The Ministry of Economic Development, in fact, is drawing up the so-called "FSMA rankings" to select the "Providers of audiovisual media services" that will have a frequency on digital terrestrial even after January 2022. What will happen to all the others?

FSFMA ranking list: challenge to the last MHz

According to the online newspaper, an online periodical of information specialized on the Italian radio and television sector, in Lombardy alone there would be over 200 FSMA in the race to get the frequencies to broadcast, far too many given the capacity available after the shutdown of the frequencies that will go to 5G.

The result of this situation, inevitable, is that in regions like Lombardy (but not only) many local TVs will be excluded. And, as a result, they will no longer be seen. Impossible, at the moment, to say which ones: we will know only when the definitive classifications will be published.

The solution: the HBBTV technology

In this scenario, the losers would not only be the local broadcasters, who would have to close store after decades of work, but also the viewers, who would find themselves with many fewer local TVs to watch. To be honest, information would also lose out, because local TV stations often broadcast news and in-depth journalistic programs. Not to mention the space given to local sports.

In short, a situation that should be avoided at all costs and, apparently, the technical solution already exists: it is called HBBTV, that is Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV, or hybrid TV half digital terrestrial and half via the Internet.

Already today, through HBBTV, it is possible to access additional content transmitted by many digital terrestrial TV broadcasters: RAI, Mediaset, La7 and Discovery, among others, already use this technology.

To use HBBTV, all that is needed is a recent Smart TV and an Internet connection, from which the data requested by the viewer passes. In Italy there are about 13.5 million TVs of this type, already connected to the Internet, and by the end of 2022 there will be almost 18 million.

The idea to save the local TVs left without a frequency is to move them to the Internet, but allow viewers to see them on TV easily thanks to HBBTV: it would be enough to assign an LCN numbering to the local TVs broadcast only in HBBTV and the viewer could see them simply by going to their position with the remote control.