[EDITORIALS]Viewers are not guinea pigs

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[EDITORIALS]Viewers are not guinea pigs

Complaints are pouring in from people who have purchased high definition televisions. With the new televisions, they looked forward to watching the FIFA World Cup matches more vividly. They paid several million won (several thousand dollars) for each TV set, but many of the sets have been reported to have technical problems, such as bad quality images.
Viewers’ complaints are pasted on the Web sites of the Korean Broadcasting Commission and major television networks. The broadcasters and electronics manufacturers blame each other for such failures. Millions of customers are likely to have to pay repair fees that will total thousands of billions of won.
This incident, we believe, is the result of the major broadcasters pursuing self-interest and the broadcasting commission making a hasty decision over procedures.
On May 30, the commission allowed the major TV networks to operate test broadcasts of the multi-mode service. It cited the purpose as allowing viewers to experience digital television during the FIFA World Cup and revitalizing digital broadcasting.
In the test broadcast, however, the broadcasters converted from the existing 1080i, which sends images and sounds at the speed of 19 megabytes per second, to 720, which sends the data at 13 megabytes per second. This was a trick to increase the number of channels with the extra frequency they “accidentally” gained. This is where the problems started, experts say.
This change without notice is seen as a way to obtain extra frequency that had been created thanks to a development in technology. But frequencies are a public asset and a certain group cannot claim them without social consensus.
The broadcasting commission said that the test broadcasts had nothing to do with the actual operation scheduled for later, but people do not buy this. The major broadcasters strongly demanded a permit for the test operation, using the FIFA World Cup as an excuse. They are now likely to obtain a permit to use the low quality service for actual broadcasts. This is not a far-fetched idea, as the commission has faithfully advocated the broadcasters’ interests.
The FIFA World Cup has already started. The broadcasting companies should stop operating the multi-mode service and resume high definition service, at least from tonight’s live broadcast of the match of Korea against Togo. Viewers can no longer be used as the guinea pigs of test broadcasts.
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