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Korean TV to go all-digital by year’s end

Oct. 10, 2012 - 19:54 By Korea Herald
Korea prepares to shut down analog broadcasts by December

Ulsan resident Kim Min-yong is not an avid television watcher, but he was surprised to find his analog TV not working when he turned it on two months ago.

“All it showed on the screen were black and white lines and I couldn’t get it to work although I tried struggling with the antenna and the remote control,” he said.

This is what is most likely to happen to those who fail to follow the government’s announcement that it will cease analog TV signals and make the transition to digital broadcasts.

Ulsan was the first region on Aug. 16 to make the analog-to-digital broadcast transition. Other areas like North Chungcheong Province, South Gyeongsang Province and Busan ended their analog broadcasts soon after, with the country set to complete the digital broadcast transition by the end of this year.

Government’s scheme

The Korea Communications Commission, which is in charge of Korea’s digital broadcast implementation, said it has set the date for the final transition to digital broadcasts to Dec. 31 at 4 a.m.

The move means that all households using only terrestrial broadcasts will need to get the government-supplied digital converter box and antenna or purchase a new digital TV set.

However, those who are subscribers of cable or satellite TV will not need to worry about the analog-to-digital transition as it will be done automatically. About 85 percent of all households belong in this category.

The digital converter box and antenna will be installed at no charge for the underprivileged, such as low-income families, the disabled and those above age 65 who are living alone. However, the KCC will charge a 20,000 won deposit to others.

Rental and installation of the digital converter box and antenna cost about 60,000 won, according to the KCC.

“We have secured a total of 105.5 billion won ($94 million) for the digital broadcast transition this year and we currently have about 4,000 to 6,000 households per day applying to make the switch,” said Shin Seung-han, a KCC director who is responsible for publicizing the government’s move.

Reasons for the switch

According to the KCC, up to 248,000 households still need to make the analog-to-digital transition in Korea as of late September.

The commission said about 240,000 households have already installed digital converter boxes in their homes and it expects 98 percent of the households to successfully make the switch by year’s end.

But, one might wonder, why go through all the inconvenience to watch digital broadcasts?

“Digital TV (DTV) is an advanced broadcasting technology that has transformed your TV viewing experience,” according to the Washington-based Federal Communications Commission. “DTV has enabled broadcasters to offer TV with better picture and sound quality. It also offers multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities.”

The KCC echoed this statement, saying that all-digital broadcasts would free up parts of the broadcast spectrum for enhanced efficiency and relocation of channels by June of next year.

“In addition, up to 18 members, including Japan and the U.S., of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ― over half of the total 33 member nations ― have ended analog broadcasts,” said Shin.

To sign up for digital broadcasts, households that see subtitles that cover 30-50 percent of their TV screens, which tell viewers that they are watching analog broadcasts, should dial 124 for more information.

By Cho Ji-hyun (