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S.Korea to start stopping analog TV services

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CIOL Bureau
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SEOUL: South Korea is stepping up efforts for a quick end to analog television broadcasting following the national telecommunication regulator's decision to stop services in three regional counties from next year.

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The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said Thursday analog TV services in Danyang, North Chungcheong Province, Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province, and Gangjin, South Jeolla Province, will be stopped from the latter half of 2010.

They will also be ended on Jeju Island from 2011, a KCC spokesman said.

The regulator plans to financially support households in the areas to install converter boxes for over-the-air viewers to continue watching digital programming.

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But the households who have already bought digital television sets or paid for cable TV or Internet-based TV will be excluded from the subsidy programs.

"We asked the finance ministry to pay 11 billion won or $8.8 million for a smooth transition," the spokesman added.

The digital TV transition will mark the end of analog television broadcasting that had been in use for more than 50 years. After 2013, all TV stations in South Korea will broadcast digital signals.

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Under the digital TV system, many viewers are expected to find an improvement in picture and sound quality, as well as the ability to pick up additional channels that offer programming such as local weather and classic TV shows.

But it seems highly unlikely that South Korea will see a complete transition to digital TV by 2013.

The business circumstances of the nation's leading broadcasters are worsening, making it difficult to finance digital transition projects.

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The KCC said some 3 trillion won or $2.4 billion will be needed for a smooth start to digital broadcasting ? 1.5 trillion won for equipment and another 1.5 trillion won for further subsidies to the underprivileged.

"The progress is likely to be stalled. The KCC plans to let TV stations lower the portion of pricey high-definition (HD)-level programs to lessen financial burdens. Also, the regulator will request TV set makers to pay more for the policy transition. But both measures won't be easy to implement," a KCC official said.

Meanwhile, public recognition is low. According to a survey by government agencies, the household diffusion rate for digital TVs was just 38.7 percent compared to 60.7 percent in Japan.

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The KCC is to expand digital converters and in-room antennas for better digital TV penetration, while the regulator has tentatively decided to broadcast programs from KBS TV via satellite to households in mountainous and island areas for better picture quality.

"I doubt the KCC's plans will be very effective," an industry source said. (The Korea Times)

 

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