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Digital D-Day on the Border

Frontera NorteSur, News Report, Staff Posted: Jun 12, 2009

A historic June snowstorm hit homes in Mexican border cities today. As the United States went from analog to digital television transmissions, many Mexican viewers whove long watched broadcasts from just across the border lost access to their favorite programs. In Ciudad Juarez, for example, viewers with analog-only television sets are no longer able to view the El Paso affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS, and Univision.

On June 11, Univision transmitted its last evening news broadcast in analog for millions of viewers in the United States and Latin America. Besides regular coverage of the soccer world and other familiar topics, the Spanish-language news program carried a story about the bloody confrontation between indigenous Peruvians and the government of President Alan Garcia over plans for massive resource exploitation in the Amazon Basin, a region of the world many scientists consider of critical importance for slowing down or preventing global climate change.

Residents of Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican border cities who do not purchase digital converter boxes or sign up with cable/satellite providers will find themselves cut off from learning about not only international events but local and regional ones as well. For better or worse, the El Paso news programs cover issues that impact both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez residents, as well as report on events in nearby Las Cruces and southern New Mexico.

But analog is not quite dead on the border. Two local stations, affiliates of the Multimedios and Telemundo networks, have low-power licenses and will be able to broadcast analog signals for two more years. The two stations could benefit from advertising dollars that migrate to the remnants of analog. Ciudad Juarez is an indispensable market for El Paso businesses which, to one degree or another, are dependent on Mexican customers.

We will continue supplying programming not only to El Paso but also to Ciudad Juarez, vowed Lorena Castaneda, general manager of Telemundos Channel 48 in El Paso. It will only be for these two communities, Castaneda added, because Las Cruces cannot receive our analog signal.

The television station manager said the digital shift gave her business an unexpected, possible benefit.

In Mexico, meanwhile, the digital transition in television is not expected to be finished until 2021. Its almost certain many now-obsolete U.S. television sets will get a second lease on life south of the border.

Sources: Univision, June 11, 2009. El Diario de El Paso, June 10 and 12, 2009. Articles by Pedro Chaparro and Julio Antonio Molinet. El Diario de Juarez, June 6 and 11, 2009. Articles by Juan de Dios Olivas and editorial staff.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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