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.
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:
Korean Central Television (조선중앙방송), North Korea’s main national television station, has begun high-definition broadcasting.
The TV station has been available in standard definition via the Thaicom satellite for more than 15 years, and earlier in January a second high-definition feed of the TV station appeared.
A closer look at the programming reveals it wasn’t the only part of the newscast that was given a new look.
The newspaper review, which is a staple of the early evening 5pm bulletin, also has a new graphics package and a much lighter musical intro. More >
North Korea’s main evening news bulletin has a new look.
Korean Central Television has updated the opening sequence of the 8pm evening news program for the first time since September 2012.
The new graphics begin with a map of the world, zooming into the DPRK and then a wall of clips from the station’s news programming including one of the country’s mass parades, a rocket launch, scenes from farming and industry, and several sports.
Here what the versions used until September 2012 and after that time looked like:
Imports of digital TV sets to North Korea are sharply higher in the first few months of this year compared to last year, according to Yonhap News.
Citing data from the Korea International Trade Association, Yonhap said China shipped just under $18 million worth of digital TVs to North Korea in the first four months of 2014, up 338 percent from the $4 million in the same period of 2013.
Yonhap tied the rise to earlier reports than North Korea is planning to introduce digital TV broadcasting.
In March 2013, a report on the Naenara website said trial broadcasting had begun in 2012.
“On the basis of the trial introduction of digital TV broadcasting last year the ministry is working to lay the material and technical foundation for applying it stage by stage while developing programs and introducing facilities,” it said.