By Chen Yang
Residents in Shanghai and some provinces in central and west China will pay more for watching digital TV programs as soon as next month, as the country progresses through a complete changeover from analog to digital TV signals before 2015.
Shanghai's 2.5 million households will face a 77 percent rise in their monthly cable TV service bills starting January 1, 2011, when they can enjoy digital broadcasting, according to an announcement released Tuesday by the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission (SMDRC).
The new price will be 23 yuan ($3.37) per month for each household, up from the current 13 yuan ($1.90) as a result of a public hearing on price adjustment held by the SDRC November 23.
The government would offer subsidies to low-income families, and hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other public service institutions will pay no more than 13 yuan ($1.90) per month, the announcement said.
"My household just switched to a digital signal, but I think 23 yuan ($3.37) is expensive for current services. It is acceptable to charge 15-20 yuan ($2.20- $2.93) every month," said Jiang Yingying, a 26-year-old Shanghai resident.
"I hope operators will provide more and better TV programs by 2011, which would make up for my bill."
Qinghai, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces will also raise monthly cable TV service fees starting as soon as a few weeks.
Qinghai announced its households would pay 25 yuan ($3.66) per month starting January 1, 2010, up from the current 14 yuan ($2.05).
Hunan households will pay from 18 yuan ($2.64) to 24 yuan ($3.51) per month starting at the same time. Jiangxi also approved a monthly price ranging from 20-26 yuan ($2.93- $3.81) in a public hearing held last month.
The only objection to raising cable TV service fees was in Guangdong Province in November. Voters at a similar public hearing opposed increasing the current charges, which range from 22-26 yuan ($3.22-$3.81) per month for every household.
The growth of the charge comes as the government promotes digital TV programs around the country. China will stop broadcasting analog TV programs by 2015, according to a document on the development of the digital TV industry released by the State Council in 2008.
"The price growth of cable TV services is reasonable, as cable TV operators have invested a lot in the promotion of digital TVs, and they need to keep the business running by getting more money from subscribers," said Chen Shousong, an analyst at Analysus International.
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