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Finnish Broadcasting Company's task as a public service provider not jeopardised in digital restructuring

However, there are problems with digital technology, information and advice

18.6.2009

The transition from analogue to digital technology was not conducted in a way that would have jeopardised the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE's) task as a public service broadcaster, finds Deputy-Ombudsman Jukka Lindstedt, having examined the matter arising from 17 complaints.

The criticisms made in the complaints related to, inter alia, problems with reception of digital transmissions and subtitling, housing condominiums being refused permission to use central digital adapters, shortcomings in advisory services and the provision of information as well as inequitable treatment of cabled households vis-à-vis those using antennas.

When digital transmissions were beginning in 2001, digital devices were difficult to obtain, expensive and plagued by technical problems. That did not jeopardise YLE's performance of its public service remit, because also traditional analogue transmissions could still be received. By the time the changeover to the digital era was completely effected in September 2007, reception and digital technology had already reached a fairly appropriate level and the situation at the moment can be considered more or less good. Indeed, no more complaints concerning digitalisation have been received by the Ombudsman for about a year.

However, the Deputy-Ombudsman has made a few critical observations about the transition to the digital era:

The obligation on the authorities to provide citizens with information was especially accentuated, because the changeover was a major revision of communications policy that affected the entire population. Advisory services should have been arranged to help deal with especially technical problems. However, it emerged from the Ministry of Transport and Communications' own report to the Deputy-Ombudsman that, at least in the early years, citizens did not have enough information on how technical defects could be rectified. When the ending of analogue transmissions was approaching, advisory services improved significantly.

Another matter that the Deputy-Ombudsman has criticised is that it was not until as late as April 2007 that YLE agreed to allow housing condominiums to continue to convert digital transmissions to analogue if the possibility of also a digital transmission was arranged. In this, however, YLE did not act unlawfully.

The Deputy-Ombudsman additionally notes that YLE could, within the limits of its discretionary powers, agree that cabled households would be granted, in June 2007, a six-month grace period if their digital preparedness had been deemed weak.

While investigating the complaints the Deputy-Ombudsman appraised the actions of YLE and the authorities in the various stages of the transition from analogue to digital. His remit did not extend to examining the actions of the companies or other private instances involved in the changeover.

Additional information will be provided by Principal Legal Adviser Raino Marttunen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3343.