Television

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North Korean TV expands satellite transmissions

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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. (more…)

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KCTV launches HD satellite broadcasts

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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.

The technical parameters of the new broadcast are as follows: 3696MHz, horizontally polarized, 4167 symbol rate, DVB-S2 format.

The new feed began by carrying KCTV’s regular standard definition broadcasts in a letterboxed format, so while the broadcast is technically in a high-definition format, the content isn’t … yet.

Recent coverage of major national events has been produced in widescreen format, which probably means it’s being filming with high-definition equipment and converted down to standard definition for the current broadcasts.

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The TV station got a major upgrade in 2012 when China Central Television provided the broadcaster with around $800,000 worth of digital broadcasting equipment. Some of it can be seen in this photo, which was carried by Chinese media at the time.

North Korea’s satellite broadcast via Thaicom 5 reaches across a broad part of the globe including all of Asia and much of Africa and Europe. In this image below, the signal is receivable in all areas enclosed within the large outline of this map. However, a large satellite dish or at least 2-meters or more in diameter is required.

The footprint of the Thaicom 5 satellite, which carries Korean Central Television

The footprint of the Thaicom 5 satellite, shown in light blue, which carries Korean Central Television

It’s not clear whether North Korea has plans for terrestrial broadcasting in high definition. The country began testing digital TV broadcasting at the end of 2012, according to a report, but state media hasn’t provided any updates on progress of the trials.

Recent models of tablet computer on sale in the country include analog TV tuners but no digital reception, although that might be due to cost rather than absence of broadcasts.

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A new look at newspapers on KCTV

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140812-kctv-papersEarlier this month, Korean Central Television rolled out updated opening graphics for its 5pm and 8pm evening newscasts.

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.

The new graphics also give more prominent placement to the names of the country’s four main newspapers:

Rodong Sinmun (로동신문)

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Minju Joson (민주조선)

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Youth Vanguard (청년전위)

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Pyongyang Sinmun (평양신문)

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The content of the newspaper is however, not changed. It’s still a rundown of the major stories in the newspapers. Almost all have to do with the activities of Kim Jong Un, proclamations from the Korea Worker’s Party or news about industry and agriculture from around the country.

Here’s the introduction used until August 11, 2014:

And here’s the new one, used from August 12, 2014:

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KCTV updates its evening news graphics

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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:


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And the new version that’s been in use since August 14:

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And here’s video of the new opening:

And here’s the weather forecast opening, which isn’t new:

Thanks to Curtis Melvin for pointing this out.

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North Korea digital TV imports see big jump

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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.

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But tying digital TV imports to the launch of digital TV broadcasting in North Korea isn’t necessarily correct.

Most if not all flat-panel televisions these days come with built-in digital and analog tuners. It’s quite possible that North Koreans want the flat-panel models but will only use them with an analog input.

Still, it does appear that the country is on the road to a digital TV launch at some point.

To-date, there has been no mention of the broadcasting format that will be used.

The American ATSC system, used in South Korea, is unlikely to be used so the DPRK is likely choosing between DVB-T, a European standard used in most of the world, and China’s DTMB system.

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BBC should consider North Korean service, says report

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By Tara Conlan, TheGuardian.com

BBC News should consider partnerships with foreign broadcasters and look at launching new services, such as radio news for North Korea or a TV channel in Africa, according to a report.

Sir Howard Stringer’s report, commissioned by BBC head of news James Harding, offers a range of recommendations to expand its services to help achieve the corporation’s ambition of serving a global audience of 500 million by 2022.

The corporation’s non-executive director said that BBC News should consider a “comprehensive” partnership with another national or international broadcaster, involving “deeper” newsgathering collaboration.

New TV and radio services

Stringer said the corporation should consider opening “at least” one new language service for an audience facing a “severe deficit in free and impartial news”.

He pointed to North Korea or Ethiopia – “if a realistic route to market can be found”.

Stringer also said he believes there is scope for a multi-genre, free-to-air channel in Africa.

However, he admitted that previous assessments of new language services and a TV channel has suggested that “neither could be funded purely commercially”.

“[They] would require would require the buy in of [BBC] Worldwide and [BBC] News and would … require a BBC-wide commitment to provide the investment and accept the loss of some revenue in order to secure the long-term position of the BBC in Africa.”

The corporation should also better exploit “near news brands”, such as The One Show and Countryfile, as well as develop a version of Newsround that could be sold internationally.

“The BBC should look to build on its most successful – and unique – ‘near news’ brands, seeking partners to make them for local language markets,” he said. “This builds on the recently announced global version of Newsbeat. Two that stand out are The One Show, rightly known for its mix of celebrity, entertainment and current affairs, and Countryfile.”

Advertising, sponsorship and data

Stringer said that the publicly-funded BBC has failed to embrace international advertising and sponsorship opportunities because the default position is to “protect its reputation but in many markets the BBC is now operating as a commercial broadcaster.”

He said the BBC should avoid being “reluctant” to take sponsorship outside the UK for programmes that were made in Britain with licence fee income.

Stringer added that believed that the corporation should adopt a “more open stance” and see if there is a “looser approach” to raising money from “native” advertising abroad in order to “generate the income it needs.”

For example, BBC.com’s news service could raise about $2m (£1.2m) a year from native advertising.

He also recommended a more aggressive strategy for customer data a collection.

“[The BBC] must plan upfront how it will use all the data at its disposal outside the UK for commercial as well as site experience purposes ,” he said. “And aim to make sure its systems and the messages given to international audiences allow it to do that.”

He stressed his report is “not a blueprint for the[BBC] executive” but the views of an outsider who, in trying to “get to grips” with the corporation and “its inner workings has left me full of admiration but also, at times, confusion”.

Acting director of BBC World Service Group Liliane Landor said: “We welcome Sir Howard Stringer’s report – it is stimulating and ambitious, and asks refreshing, sometimes provocative, questions of the BBC.

“As we build the BBC’s global news services for the future we will be looking carefully at the report’s proposals. We do not regard this as a blueprint and the ideas are there to pick and choose from, but they will all help open up the debate about how best we can serve our audiences.”

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Sochi Olympics coverage on KCTV

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140209-kctv-olympicsEvery time the Olympics or World Cup com around, there’s the question of whether viewers in the DPRK will be able to see the major sporting events.

North Korea’s KCTV often manages to air portions of the events, but only with technical assistance from other organizations.

And so this year, for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, North Koreans are able to watch thanks to a tie-up with the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union, an organization that ties together major broadcasters across Asia, and South Korea’s KBS.

The two have agreed to provide North Korean state broadcaster Korean Radio and Television (KRT) with sports rights for the 2014 Sochi Games for airing on its KCTV channel.

“It is a part of the ABU mission to provide countries that have difficulties in negotiating individually with broadcasting rights for major sporting events such as the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup Championship and the Asian Games which audiences of the world enjoy together,” said Gil Hwan-young, president of KBS and president and CEO of the ABU.

“It is the international custom and a regular practice of the ABU that KRT of North Korea, a member broadcaster of the ABU, has support to broadcast the Winter Olympic Games,” Gil said in a statement.


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So what have North Korean audiences been watching?

On Sunday, February 9, they saw 3 minutes of edited coverage of the opening ceremony that took place just under two days earlier. Because of the time difference, it would have been impossible to get Friday night’s ceremony into Friday’s news so the airing on Sunday represents a delay of just one day.

The coverage included highlights of the ceremony including short clips of Vladimir Putin watching the event, the raising of the Russian flag, and the entry of the Greek, Austrian and Canadian teams. It concluded with shots of the lighting of the Olympic flame.

And KCTV has been broadcasting one or two events each evening in a longer program:

  • February 9 – Men’s ice skating
  • February 10 – Snowboarding slopestyle
  • February 11 – Pairs ice skating
  • February 12 – Men’s snowboarding slopestyle final & Ski jumping normal hill
  • February 13 – Men’s 5000m speed skating

There’s commentary but an in-studio anchor is not used.

KCTV appears to be adding some of it’s own localization to the graphics package. As you can see in this example below, “5 Laps to Go” and “Leader” remain in English but the names of the skaters have been localized.

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It’s a different font from that being used on the South Korean TV feed.

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And here’s how KCTV begins its Olympics coverage from Sochi. These are the first winter games in more than a decade for which North Korea did not qualify.

TV Review: Educating North Korea

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140203-panorama-1The BBC’s Panorama news documentary series visited The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology recently for a revealing look behind the unique school.

The program, broadcast on BBC One on February 3, begins summarizing the Kim’s control over the country and its people and reminds us that Kim Jong Un recently had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, put to death.

“Remarkably, weeks before his death, we gained access to North Korea to film a pioneering experiment,” said reporter Chris Rogers during the introduction.

Although perhaps more remarkable than the timing of the visit is that is happened at all.

The last time Panorama tackled North Korea was in an April broadcast that saw reporter John Sweeney spend eight days in the country undercover with a group of students from the London School of Economics.

Sweeney’s tactics attracted condemnation from the LSE and the result was a documentary that offered little new information for anyone that follows North Korea closely.

That’s not the case this time.

James Kim, president and founder of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, interviewed by BBC's Panorama

James Kim, president and founder of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, interviewed by BBC’s Panorama

James Kim, the president of PUST, spent 18 months working to get the BBC crew into North Korea and when they got there, Rogers spent ten days at PUST.

Our reward is some of the best footage yet seen from inside the university.

There’s much to investigate: the lessons being taught the students, the amount of control and freedom the students enjoy, the life of the lecturers and the apparent contradiction of a university run and funded by Christians in a country that bans organized religion.

Rogers, perhaps wisely, focused on the students. We got to see a glimpse of their daily lives, from the marching songs sung in the morning to the Sunday chore of cleaning the university’s juche monument.

The Internet access room at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

The Internet access room at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

He also spoke to a number of students on a diverse range of subjects. Sometimes the questioning strayed too close to controversial issues and a minder stepped in or the student was wise enough to provide a safe answer.

If the documentary made one mistake, it was to take everything the students said at face value. The students aren’t stupid enough to go off script and say what they really think when it comes to questions about ideology and North Korea, especially with a camera focused on them.

But this is North Korea and there’s only so much second-guessing you can do before you start to question everything.

Later, during an interview with three students who had studied in the U.K., Rogers did later question if the answers he was getting were being given out of fear.

A Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is interviewed by BBC's Panorama

A Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is interviewed by BBC’s Panorama

Still, that’s only a minor complaint.

Through “Educating North Korea” we get to see a unique view inside PUST that few others have seen.

The program makes an interesting companion to any one of the interviews recently published with Will Scott, a computer science lecturer who recently returned from North Korea. Several can be found in a series posted last week on this site (linked below) or through a Google search of other news sites.

“Educating North Korea” is available for a limited time through BBC iPlayer in the U.K. It will also be shown later this week on BBC World News, the BBC’s global news TV channel.

A computer with Internet connection at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

A computer with Internet connection at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

A lecture at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

A lecture at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

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