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Spain to stop transmitting standard definition TV signals

Television antennas on top of a roof in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Eric Fischer via Wikimedia Commons)

Broadcasters in Spain have launched several public outreach campaigns warning citizens that a full shutdown of standard definition television transmissions is right around the corner.

Starting February 14, all over-the-air television broadcasts in the country will be in full high definition (HD), a move that will make some television reception equipment obsolete.

Specifically, cable and satellite set-top boxes that are only capable of receiving standard definition (SD) signals will stop working on that date, and viewers will have to acquire a new cable or set-top box that can decode digital HD signals if they want to continue watching TV. The same goes for Spanish citizens who receive TV signals over broadcast transmissions, as broadcast TV stations will also stop offering SD-only signals from mid-February.

The switch-off is similar to one that took place in the United States several years ago, when broadcasters stopped transmitting their analog signals in favor of digital ones.

While digital TV tuners in the U.S. are compatible with both SD and HD transmissions, tuners used by TV viewers in Spain can’t pull in SD and HD signals simultaneously.

Spanish broadcast regulators originally scheduled the SD shutoff for January 1, but the government postponed the move after finding most citizens were not fully prepared for the transition. Officials said it was unlikely the deadline would be pushed again.

Most local and national television stations have already made the switch to HD, with some continuing to support SD simulcasts until the change is fully implemented. RTVE, the country’s main public broadcaster, offers its channels in both HD and SD, but plans to shut down its SD signals on February 5.

Mediaset and Atresmedia say they will also shut down their SD simulcasts of HD channels in February, while regional TV broadcasters Cat3 and Canaria say they will launch HD versions of their SD signals prior to February 14.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).