With the end of analog TV broadcasts on Sunday, Japan has completely switched to digital TV broadcasts, except in three Tohoku prefectures devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — where the start of terrestrial digital TV broadcast will be postponed till the end of March 2012.

Outside the three prefectures, people cannot watch TV anymore unless they have purchased digital televisions or digital TV tuners and have UHF antennas installed, or have subscribed to cable TV services. It will become difficult to continue to use analog video cassette recorders and DVD recorders, so there will also arise a need to buy digital DVD recorders.

Looking back, it is regrettable that the government and TV industry decided on the switching to terrestrial digital TV broadcast without public discussions. It is unlikely that all households in Japan are equipped to receive digital TV broadcasts.

The central and local governments should continue to assist households that are not equipped to watch digital TV broadcasts. The telephone number of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s support center is (0570) 070101. Local governments also have support sections.

According to an estimate by NHK and the communications ministry, with the exception of the three aforementioned Tohoku prefectures, 290,000 households did not have the necessary equipment to view digital broadcasts at the end of June.

In 2009, the ministry started distributing digital tuners free of charge to low-income households, including those on welfare. Although the ministry estimated the number of such households nationwide at more than 2 million, as of the end of June, only 1.27 million households had applied to receive tuners.

It must also not be forgotten that many blind people will be inconvenienced by the switch to terrestrial digital TV broadcasts because they use FM radios that can receive analog TV broadcasts to listen to television news, culture programs and dramas.

Of course, they can switch to digital TV sets or advanced cellphones, but such devices have small buttons rather than dials, so many blind people find them more difficult to use. Electronic manufacturers should be encouraged to develop radios that can receive digital TV broadcasts.

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