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Posts tagged Reuters
By James Pearson
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has warned foreigners living in Pyongyang not to share outside media on memory sticks with its citizens, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a note, cracking down on what the isolated country called “undesirable content”.
The vast majority of North Koreans have no access to outside Internet or foreign media, but people regularly share films, music and literature on easily-concealed USB sticks that are passed from person to person.
The Associated Press has signed a deal with North Korean state television that gives it exclusive rights to high-definition video of major news events in the country.
The deal comes as AP and its biggest competitor, Reuters, race to expand their access to North Korea ahead of the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth — an event that is expected to see large scale celebrations and events in Pyongyang around April 15.
The new deal lasts three years and makes London-based APTN (Associated Press Television News) “the only agency to transmit broadcast-quality HD pictures of key news events in North Korea,” it said. The pictures will come from North Korean state broadcaster KRT with which AP already has an agreement to redistribute its video to AP member TV stations worldwide.
AP President Tom Curley announced the deal in Tokyo on Thursday (pictured, right).
For day-to-day coverage it gives APTN a leg up on Reuters TV, which has access to standard definition video footage from KRT and state news agency KCNA.
Competition between AP and Reuters to supply footage to TV stations is fierce and the new deal could give APTN an advantage, especially in countries like Japan where demand for footage is high and most broadcasters want HD pictures.
Additionally the deal gives APTN exclusive rights to provide high-definition video feeds for all news broadcasters wishing to transmit from the country. That means any TV station wanting to send a high-definition live shot from the DPRK will have to use AP’s services. That could mean big money in 2012 if the DPRK opens its doors to foreign TV stations.
The deal builds on a relationship between APTN, KRT and the DPRK’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications that began in 2006 when AP opened the first western TV news bureau in Pyongyang.
Two recent deals with western news agencies stand to put Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) video in front of millions of viewers.
The deals, with The Associated Press and Reuters, give each agency the ability to redistribute KCNA footage to TV stations around the world as part of their video news service. Such deals are common and both AP Television News and Reuters have many to supplement their own footage and get quick access to breaking news.
The difficulties of getting into Pyongyang to shoot any video, let alone breaking news, present unique problems for all journalists.
AP announced its deal on June 29th, apparently as an exclusive:
The contract signed this week designates AP as the exclusive distributor of contemporary and historic video from KCNA’s archive, providing a new source of video content from North Korea to AP’s members and customers around the world. — AP news release, June 29, 2011
But, not to be outdone, Reuters followed on July 11 with its own deal:
Reuters today announced an expansion of its relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA).
The agreement with KCNA covers both breaking and feature news video, and marks a significant expansion by Reuters in delivering news from one of the world’s most important datelines. – Reuters news release, July 11, 2011
It appears Reuters is getting the freshest video from KCNA, perhaps shot exclusively for the agency, while APTN gets access to archive footage.
Both news agencies already distribute footage from state-run television KRT and APTN is unique among western news agencies in having a bureau in Pyongyang.
They’re not the only foreign TV crew in Pyongyang. China’s CCTV has a bureau in the city and recently started distributing video from North Korea at no cost to broadcasters through its News Content service.
For KCNA this all adds up to good news and, more than likely, brings in a healthy revenue stream.
The first video has already appeared on the Reuters TV wire.
On July 9, two days before the deal was officially announced, Reuters carried 4 minutes and 52 seconds of video on commemorations surrounding the death of Kim Il Sung.
The story intro: “North Koreans pay respect to founder and former leader Kim Il-sung by visiting memorial sites and exhibitions on the 17th anniversary of his death.”
A second story appeared on July 12 and covered the arrival of a Chinese government delegation to mark the 50th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the two countries.
The source of both videos was identified as “KCNA for Reuters.” The “for Reuters” is typically not appended to the name of the supplying agency and indicates some extra level of cooperation between the agencies.
Scripts for both included the disclaimer “Reuters cannot independently verify the video’s accuracy.”
Such are the ethical problems associated with video from a government-run news service in an authoritarian country.
Video first appeared on the KCNA website in January this year, soon after the news agency launched its Pyongyang-based website. At the time we noted that it might be destined for TV broadcasters:
Of additional interest is KCNA’s plans for the new videos. They are much lighter on propaganda than the kind of video regularly seen on national television and are much more in the style of shot that are provided by TV news agencies to clients.
The lack of narration and the use of split audio (interviews on the left channel and ‘natural sound’ on the right) matches news production standards, and the “KCNA” type in the top-left corner is likely to discourage piracy. Perhaps KCNA has plans to offer video in the same way it provides text and photos. – “KCNA Launches Video News,” North Korea Tech, January 2, 2011
Where will it go from here? As they say on TV, stay tuned.
Pyongyang is suddenly the hottest place to have a newsroom.
In the space of two weeks, both The Associated Press and Reuters have announced plans to source more content from inside the country.
The AP has signed a memorandum of understanding (which typically precedes an official deal) on the establishment of a text and photo bureau in Pyongyang, while Reuters says it has an agreement to feed video from Pyongyang for distribution to its TV clients worldwide.
(Pictured right: Kim Pyong Ho, president of Korean Central News Agency, right, exchanges an agreement during an official signing with AP President and CEO Tom Curley Tuesday, June 28, 2011 in New York.)
The deals were signed with the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which both western news agencies have previously described as the government “mouthpiece.” But, when it comes to opening a Pyongyang bureau, there really is no alternative but to deal with KCNA.
Getting access to North Korea for even a short reporting trip is an exercise in frustration, so both news agencies will be hoping that having a more formal arrangement in place will make access to the country easier.
With the country still very much in the news and the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung approaching next year, both AP and Reuters could be well placed to profit from the new access agreements.
It’s not surprising they seem pretty pleased about their agreements.
The AP noted:
It would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital. – AP news release, June 29, 2011
While Reuters said:
The Reuters News Agency will be the first international news organization to have a full time satellite dish in North Korea, delivering clean news video content in addition to the text and pictures covered by a previous agreement – a significant benefit to broadcasters across the globe. – Reuters news release, July 11, 2011
AP Television News, a competitor to Reuters TV for the business of broadcasters worldwide, has had a video bureau in Pyongyang since 2006 so Reuters is playing catch-up here.
The “clean” video reference refers to video without the logo or captions of the originating TV station while the perhaps oblique reference to a “full time satellite dish” is probably a jibe at APTN.
APTN uses the facilities of state broadcaster KRT to play out video and live signals so Reuters is keen to trumpet its own dish, but whether that actually makes a difference to the pictures being delivered remains to be seen.
Reuters appears hopeful the deal will mean “up to the minute video stories from Pyongyang and across the country,” but they won’t be coming from Reuters cameras. The deal doesn’t include a full time staffer in Pyongyang, but KCNA will apparently arrange regular visits for “senior Reuters journalists.”
It’s also worth noting that the AP announcement from late June also included a video component. AP signed as the “exclusive distributor of contemporary and historic video from KCNA’s archive.”
Both deals include some sweeteners for KCNA. AP will offer “cooperation on journalistic and photo/video technology issues” and Reuters is promising “editorial training.”