The Japanese government is supporting a web-TV infrastructure that will distribute programs via broadband, fiber-optic networks using internet protocol (IP) technology.

Traditional TV broadcasters are not happy at the government's proactivity. They fear that internet broadcasts could undermine the industry status quo whereby broadcasters are licensed to serve a single prefecture.

The old brigade stand to lose viewers in their droves if internet protocol broadcasters are allowed to offer programs from TV stations outside their prefecture base . Fewer viewers would impact adversely on regional ad revenues.

However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has allocated ¥1.8 billion ($15.3m; €12.4m; £8.6m) in its fiscal 2006 budget to accelerate experiments in transmitting digital terrestrial programming to households via IP technology.

The ministry expects distribution of standard-quality digital TV programs to begin by the end of this year, at the earliest, and commercial distribution of high-definition versions in 2008.

Although TV broadcasters admit IP broadcasting will help them achieve their objective of digitizing terrestrial services, their support for the technology is conditional.

"We will cooperate if the government guarantees that IP broadcasters will be licensed to provide their services only within specified areas," a TV station official said.

Data sourced from Asahi Shimbun Online; additional content by WARC staff