Posts tagged Korea Central Television

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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.

Kim Jong Un’s new year address

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For the second year in a row, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared on state TV and radio on January 1 to deliver a new year address to his nation.

The direct address was something of a surprise when it happened last year as Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, was rarely heard speaking on state media. For many years, he delivered his annual address through an editorial in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

This year’s speech comes at an interesting time, happening just weeks after Jang Song Thaek was arrested and executed for crimes against the state. Reports suggest a major purge of Jang’s allies continues into the new year.

The speech touched on that and several other issues of importance to the government and much has already been written about that. I thought I’d look at how the speech was delivered rather than what was said.

One of the most notable things about this year’s speech was how little Kim Jong Un was actually on screen.

The speech began with an introductory frame.

The introduction frame for Kim Jong Un's 2014 new year speech

The introduction frame for Kim Jong Un’s 2014 new year speech. (KCTV screengrab)

And quickly cut to a medium-angle shot of Kim Jong Un walking towards a dais with papers in his hand. While it’s impossible to tell what those papers were, we’re likely intended to conclude it’s a copy of the speech.

The Workers’ Party of Korea symbol adorns the dais, the wall behind and a flag placed nearby.

Kim Jong Un walks towards a dais to deliver his 2014 new year speech. KCTV screengrab.

Kim Jong Un walks towards a dais to deliver his 2014 new year speech. (KCTV screengrab)

This appears to be exactly the same spot from where the 2013 address was delivered, although a year earlier there were several floral arrangements also placed nearby.

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Kim Jong Un delivers his 2013 new year address. (KCTV screengrab)

When the speech begins, viewers are alternated between the following three shots: a medium shot of Kim, a tight shot and a still image of the Workers’ Party of Korea central committee hall.

The cameras both face Kim from an angle, perhaps intended to add to the illusion that he is speaking to an audience.

Switching between cameras and a still image can be used to provide variety to the viewer and can also be used as an editing trick to mask places where a speech was edited, perhaps if a part needed to be repeated because of a stumble on words or a part was later removed or added.

The medium shot of Kim Jong Un's 2014 new year address. (KCTV screengrab)

The medium shot of Kim Jong Un’s 2014 new year address. (KCTV screengrab)

The close shot of Kim Jong Un's 2014 new year address. (KCTV screengrab)

The close shot of Kim Jong Un’s 2014 new year address. (KCTV screengrab)

The Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee Headquarters as shown in Kim Jong Un's 2014 new year address (KCTV screengrab)

The Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee Headquarters as shown in Kim Jong Un’s 2014 new year address (KCTV screengrab)

The speech was introduced with applause although an audience was never shown. Kim Jong Un is the only person seen throughout the entire broadcast.

It included 32 pieces of applause. All ranged from 5- to 7-seconds long with the exception of the opening round at 14 seconds, a piece a few minutes in at 8 seconds and the closing round at just under 10 seconds.

In all, the 26 minute and 19 second speech was interrupted with 3 minutes and 23 seconds of applause.

The applause all sounds uniform and the lack of audience shots means it’s difficult to conclude that an audience was present.

But what’s perhaps more interesting than possibly canned applause is Kim Jong Un’s screen time.

The editor alternated between the two shots of Kim Jong Un and the still image of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee Headquarters for the first two minutes of the speech then went to the still image continuously for the next 23 minutes, only returning to a mix of shots in the last minute of the broadcast.

In total, Kim Jong Un was seen speaking for just 2 minutes 12 seconds of the entire broadcast.

In the 2013 speech, a similar image of the WPK building was also shown, but Kim Jong Un got much more screen time.

The still image used in Kim Jong Un's 2013 new year broadcast (KCTV screengrab)

The still image used in Kim Jong Un’s 2013 new year broadcast (KCTV screengrab)

Here’s the entire broadcast:

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UK’s Channel 4 showing North Korea’s evening TV news

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0911-dprk-news-02As part of a season of programs and reports on North Korea, the U.K.’s Channel 4 is showing the main evening news from Korea Central Television with English translation.

The news bulletins are being carried on Channel 4’s website under the banner “North Korea Uncovered” and begin with the news from October 14.

“North Korea Uncovered: a rare chance to watch North Korean television news,” the caption for the first bulletin reads.

They are accompanied by other reports in the series including a look at the country’s first ski resort by Swiss journalist Marc Wolfenberger.

The daily newscast has been available online for several years through the China-based Uriminzokkiri portal and its associated YouTube channel. It’s also sometimes available via a Japan-based North Korean website, but is only available in the original Korean.

Channel 4’s season gives English-speaking viewers a great chance to sample the daily propaganda output that makes up the evening news broadcast on state television.

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KCTV Facebook page deleted, but streams live on

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130409-kctv-medicine-01A Facebook page that claimed to be the official home of North’s Korea’s main national TV channel, Korean Central Television, has disappeared.

The page appeared to have been around for at least a month and content included links to KCTV news bulletins on the YouTube channel of the China-based Uriminzokkiri website, photos and stories from the government’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and some “behind the scenes” pictures from the TV station.

It was written as if it was being run from within the TV station in Pyongyang — something that appears to have fooled several major international news agencies — but a series of inconsistencies in the content made it much more likely to be the work of a North Korean fan in the west.

Early this week, after those inconsistencies were highlighted on NorthKoreaTech and South Korea’s National Police Agency said it was looking into blocking the page, the Facebook account went silent. The account was deleted by its owner, Facebook told NorthKoreaTech.

A lot of the media attention on the page focused on its livestreaming of Korean Central Television but, as noted here earlier, the two livestreams offered by the site weren’t actually original.

They were simply embedded versions of two streams that remain available.

The first is being carried by Ustream, a U.S.-based video streaming site, and appears to be provided from Japan by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chosen Soren). The second comes from Unification Broadcasting, a Seoul-based defector-run site that analyzes media coverage on both sides of the Korean border.

A Facebook posting claiming to be from Korean Central Television in Pyongyang advertises two livestreams of its daily program.

A Facebook posting claiming to be from Korean Central Television in Pyongyang advertises two livestreams of its daily program.

Live from Pyongyang, it’s KCTV on Facebook … or maybe not

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On Thursday, South Korea’s Yonhap reported on a new Facebook page in the name of the Korean Central Television, North Korea’s national TV station. (Updated. See below.)

Yonhap said, “North Korea’s state broadcaster started real-time Facebook broadcasting as the communist country moves to expand its propaganda efforts into the social networking realm, official sources said Thursday.”

In never divulged who the “official sources” were beyond describing them as people “who keep tabs on the North.”

Later in the day, Agence France Presse reported the same Facebook page, reporting on the news of Kim Jong Un’s visit to a mushroom farm in the first news bulletin of the day. Like Yonhap, AFP noted, “The move marks a further step by the reclusive state to develop its Internet presence and use of social networks to disseminate state-approved propaganda.”

But there’s a few things about the new Facebook page that don’t quite add up.

The page claims to be based in Pyongyang, but links to Uriminzokkiri.com.

Uriminzokkiri isn’t in Pyongyang. It’s in China. It runs YouTube, Flickr and Twitter accounts and has an iTunes podcast so is well versed in social media, but makes no secret of its Chinese base.

Uriminzokkiri’s social media efforts to date have been in Korean, not English (bar a short-lived attempt at an English-language Twitter feed), and are aimed at ethnic Koreans in North Korea’s East Asian neighbors. It established a Facebook page in 2010, but the page was deleted, twice, because it was set up as a personal account and not a “page.” Uriminzokkiri has not been back to Facebook since.

A quick check on the Uriminzokkiri site shows it doesn’t list the channel, despite it apparently starting at least a month ago.

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Uriminzokkiri’s advertised social media channels on June 7, 2013.

So livestreaming on Facebook doesn’t quite fit the Uriminzokkiri profile. If it was to livestream — and it’s probably the most likely part of the North Korean Internet family of sites to do so — it would probably make more sense to serve the video stream from its own site or a third party video service like Ustream, Livestation or Livestream. That’s what it does with recorded video clips: its own site and YouTube.

Assuming the Pyongyang base is correct and the page links to Uriminzokkiri because there’s no KCTV website, it would be even more unusual. Non of North Korea’s Pyongyang-based sites engage in social media at all, and especially don’t adopt the chatty tone of the Facebook page.

The page includes lots of photos and text articles from KCNA. Among the most interesting items are some “behind the scenes” looks at the KCTV studios. They are presumably there to lend credibility to the Facebook account.

Pictures of inside KCTV have only been seen a couple of times in the last few years: once during the 2012 Lunar New Year when China Central Television reported on the TV station and interviewed Ri Chun Hui, probably the most famous KCTV anchor. And then later in 2012 when CCTV donated studio equipment to the broadcaster.

In this May 19 Facebook posting, a site claiming to be Korean Central Television provides a "behind the scenes" look at the control room.

In this May 19 Facebook posting, a site claiming to be Korean Central Television provides a “behind the scenes” look at the control room.

The photo above claims to have been taken on Sunday, May 19, and if real it would be a very unusual look behind the scenes of one of North Korea’s key propaganda machines.

Here’s the photo in full:

Facebook, May 19, 2013.

Facebook, May 19, 2013.

And here’s a photo carried on this website on October 1, 2012, as part of a report into the modernization of the KCTV control room by CCTV. Notice anything similar between the two photos?

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The photo of the control room “on Sunday” is actually a six-month old Xinhua photo that’s been cropped to remove the “news.cn” name from the corner. One of the other “behind the scenes” photos on the Facebook page is a different shot from the same article on NorthKoreaTech, also cropped to remove the news.cn name.

Then there’s the livestreams themselves.

A Facebook posting claiming to be from Korean Central Television in Pyongyang advertises two livestreams of its daily program.

A Facebook posting claiming to be from Korean Central Television in Pyongyang advertises two livestreams of its daily program.

The two streams don’t come from Pyongyang or China at all. One is a Ustream feed that’s been set up in the name of “elufa.tv.” Elufa is a website run by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (aka Chrongryon or Chosen Soren) and the other is a Windows Media feed provided by the Seoul-based SPTV website.

Is Korean Central Television really relying on a Japanese and South Korean website to stream its programming?

While it’s impossible to determine who is actually behind the site, everything points to it being the work of one of several North Korean fans outside of the country who already post the country’s propaganda to their own sites and YouTube channels. There’s nothing on the page that appears genuinely original from KCTV in Pyongyang.

[UPDATE: The Facebook page, which was available at https://www.facebook.com/KoreanCentralTV , appears to have been deleted shortly after this article was published.]

 

KCTV gets more connected

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Korean Central Television, the DPRK’s main nationwide TV channel, appears to have received another technology upgrade.

New satellite images uploaded to Google Earth show four satellite dishes on the roof of a building at the TV and radio broadcasting center. They weren’t there a few months ago.

It’s interesting because previously the TV and radio broadcasting center didn’t appear to have any link with the rest of the world. At least, nothing direct it controlled. It’s quite possible that signals from overseas were downlinked somewhere else and supplied over cable to the building.

Here’s the building as shown in a Google image from February 22 and, on the right, the same building on October 13, 2012.

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The dishes are the most visible indication to date of upgrades at the state-run broadcaster.

In March last year the main 8pm evening news got a facelift with the use of computerized backdrops behind the presenters. For years, the evening news had used a basic backdrop of either a wooden wall or a painting of Pyongyang, so the computerized backdrops were a big change.

Then, in September, the news got an even bigger change with a new set and new, Sony digital broadcasting equipment. The money for the upgrade came from China Central Television.

It’s impossible to tell what the dishes are pointed at — the pictures aren’t high enough resolution, they’re not from directly above and satellites are too closely positioned — but as an educated guess they could easily be pulling in the main Chinese, Japanese and South Korean channels. One might also be used to monitor KCTV’s output on the Thaicom-5 satellite or receive footage from the APTN or Reuters TV wire services.

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Report: DPRK testing digital TV

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111207-kctv-testcardNorth Korea began digital TV broadcasting trials last year, according to a report published this week.

There were no other details of the tests included in the report, which was carried by the Korea Computer Center’s Naenara portal as part of an article on upgrades to the country’s telecommunications systems.

“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,” the report said.

State media isn’t believed to have reported on the trials in the past.

A switch to digital broadcasting could have a big impact on the ability of people to receive uncensored TV broadcasts from South Korea and China.

Currently, North Koreans living within a few tens of kilometers from the northern and southern borders can receive overseas Korean-language broadcasts if they have a TV set that has been adjusted to allow tuning.

TV’s impact isn’t as important as foreign radio, which can be received nationwide, but it is one of a few sources of information from outside the government media. A survey published last year of defectors found 15 percent reported watching Chinese TV at least weekly and 4 percent watching South Korea’s KBS.

It’s importance was underlined recently when South Korea, which had been scheduled to switch off all its analog TV stations as part of a digital switchover, decided to keep them in operation near the border for North Korean viewers.

Digital TV introduces problems because there’s are several incompatible formats and because the signals are much less suited to reception in fringe areas.

On the standards front, North Korea is likely to be testing one of two standards: the DVB-T format used in Europe and much of Asia, or China’s DTMB system. South Korea uses the American ATSC system, which is unlikely to be used in the DPRK.

If the country goes for DVB-T, television sets won’t be able to receive broadcasts from either neighboring country. Selection of the Chinese system will mean the potential of receiving Chinese broadcasts in the border area, but only if the TV sets are capable of being tuned.

Depending on the sophistication of any limit on tuning, an after-market modification to allow tuning could be very difficult.

The good news is that a complete switch to digital TV is probably years away from happening.

Great National Unity website launches

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0131-gnuNorth Korea’s newest website, Great National Unity, launched Thursday.

The site is supposedly run by Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, the country’s radio station that targets Korean-language speakers in South Korea, Japan and China, and its imminent launch was announced by state radio earlier this week.

At first glance, the site appears largely consistent with web design on other North Korean websites. There are North Korean scenes, flowers, a map of the unified country and news stories about inter-Korean politics.

Perhaps one of the most interesting areas is a grid of views on the lower right hand side of the screen from Korea Central Television. Unfortunately, the nightly news isn’t featured among them.

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They play in a Flash video player — not a proprietary format like the Voice of Korea streaming audio — and the quality isn’t bad, although it isn’t great either.

Visitors will also find some audio clips and photos.

But, at least on first glance, there isn’t much on this site that can’t already be found on North Korea’s other websites.

In terms of technology, the site appears to be running on the same webserver that hosts several other Noth Korean sites, including Voice of Korea and the Naenara portal.

The server is running on CentOS, a free Linux-based operating system based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

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