There was a little bit of excitement among North Korea watchers, myself included, earlier this year when the state TV broadcaster, Korean Central Television, took its first step towards high-definition broadcasting.
It was signaled by a switch in satellite transmission formats that increased the available screen resolution by more than five times, from just over 414,000 pixels to more than 2 million pixels.
That’s a big deal because getting information out of North Korea is difficult. Sharper, clearer pictures provide a look at North Korea that’s literally much more detailed. It will be easier to see the faces of officials several steps behind Kim Jong Un, the writing on posters and signs on walls and the daily changes taking place in Pyongyang.
To get an idea of the difference, take a look at these images. First the conventional standard definition image:
North Korean TV news doesn’t change very much.
Centrally programmed from Pyongyang, the news can be counted on the provide an update of the work of Kim Jong Un (usually depicted in still photos rather than video), commentary on issues in South Korea and the U.S., reports on innovation in industry, medicine, education and farming, and then the weather report.
There’s not much more to it, so when something changes, it’s worth noting no matter how small the change.
Recently, I spotted a couple of reports that do away with the stale graphics of the past for something that looks a bit more modern. They are part of a gradual modernization of the look of North Korean TV that began in 2012 with the donation of US$800,000 worth of equipment from China Central Television and recently included an update to the opening sequence of the main evening news.
A couple of weeks ago I reported that satellite monitors had found a new feed of Korean Central Television on Intelsat 21, a satellite above the Atlantic that covers all of the Americas and west Europe.
Today I had a chance to check it out.
North Korea is the second most-censored nation on earth, according to a new ranking by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
For anyone that knows North Korea or has been paying attention to press freedom studies and rankings, the news hardly comes as a surprise.
The government has complete control over the news media, which is limited to a handful of outlets that all report and reflect the official viewpoint. More >
Korean Central Television has appeared on a satellite above the Atlantic Ocean, extending coverage of its live signal to the Americas and Europe.
The TV channel, which is North Korea’s main state-run TV service, began broadcasting on Intelsat 21 earlier in April, according to monitoring reports.
KCTV has been available for more than a decade on Thaicom 5, which is situated above the Indian Ocean and puts a signal into most of Asia, Africa and Europe, except the extreme western edges.
The Intelsat 21 satellite has a footprint that covers all of the Americas and the western portion of Europe, providing coverage to areas not served by Thaicom.
Here’s the area covered by the satellite:
Voice of Korea, North Korea’s international shortwave broadcasting station, will use the following schedule from March 29 for roughly six months.
The broadcasts follow the same basic line-up each day.
:00 Opening signal, station identification: “This is Voice of Korea”
:01 National Anthem
:03 Song of General Kim Il Sung
:06 Song of General Kim Jong Il
:09 News, editorials (approx 15 minutes, but can be extended to full broadcast), followed by music More >
The BBC World Service is still exploring ways to launch programming aimed at North Korea.
The broadcaster had previously said budget cuts are hampering efforts to get its news and information programming into the country, but a new report makes clear the country remains an expansion target. More >
Greater access to information, particularly the Internet, will likely prove to be what ends the rule of North Korea’s regime, President Obama said last week in an interview.
Speaking to YouTube creators during an event at The White House, Obama said military options against the country were limited, in part because of the potential damage that South Korea could suffer in a conflict.
“Our capacity to affect change in North Korea is somewhat limited because you got a million person army and they have nuclear technologies and missiles,” said Obama. “That’s all they spend their money on essentially, is on their war machine, and we’ve got an ally of South Korea right next door that if there were a war a would be severely affected.” More >