[EDITORIALS]Satellite TV's troubled start

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[EDITORIALS]Satellite TV's troubled start

At long last, commercial digital satellite broadcasting, touted as "dream channels," has been launched in Korea. SkyLife offers 84 video channels and 60 audio channels but not the retransmission of the three airwave channels, KBS2, MBC and SBS, an issue so controversial that the chairman of the Korea Broadcasting Commission had to step down before his guaranteed term expired.

The launching of SkyLife happened one year after preparations had begun. But the service is very disappointing because customers' rights have been overlooked.

Of the 520,000 households that initially subscribed to the service, just 6,500 had access to the SkyLife channels; the others will not have access until May. Worse yet, interactive communication, the essence of the digital world, is not offered because only stripped-down set-top boxes, or converters, are available. Since the high-end set-top boxes will not appear until mid-August, viewers will not be able to enjoy the true features of digital broadcasting. And the 70 percent of all subscribers who signed up for the service to avoid troubled transmissions from MBC and SBS have been left betrayed, trusting what the satellite broadcaster told them.

There are also problems with the quantity of content, not to mention quality. Two channels have begun service without being able to fill the allotted time slot due to poor preparations. Therefore, we believe that launching SkyLife at this point was a hasty decision. The authorities and officials at Korea Digital Satellite Broadcasting, which operates the SkyLife service, argue that going digital is a global trend and, thus, Korea is acting in its best interest by pioneering the development of the business and technologies. The economic effect is important. But economic gains should not come at consumers' expense.

The Korea Broadcasting Commission and satellite-broadcasting operators must quickly come up with ways to minimize the installation fee for high-end converters, to nurture regional broadcasters, to retransmit airwave broadcasts and to secure content that is of higher quality than existing programs.
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