Digital television for all

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Digital television for all

The nation will switch to digital television broadcasting from the start of the year, and watching will be entirely different from the analog age. Viewers will be able to choose what they want to see on their own schedule, and broadcasters will deliver customized multimedia content in high definition. The government has been pushing to digitize living rooms by arguing that digital multimedia will revolutionize the industry.

The Korea Communications Commission repeatedly promised to be ready by the end of the year for the switch and has decided to completely end analog broadcasting at that time. The commission said digital broadcasting technology is used by 99.3 percent of viewers.

But the statistic does not reflect reality. Four out of 10 households still have analog television sets. When critics question the credibility of the numbers, the commission says it compiled data according to standard industry guidelines. But whatever it says, the fact remains that it has failed to keep its promise of universal coverage.

In Korea, nine out of 10 households subscribe to pay television, leaving only one out of 10 to rely on rooftop antennas for terrestrial broadcasts.

Five out of the nine households that subscribe to pay services already have digital broadcasting through the Internet, satellite or cable. But the rest, as many as seven million to eight million families, watch through analog cable channels. This means that a large proportion of television viewers will be left in the dark after the technology switchover. The commission has been offering digital converters virtually free to the few families that still watch analog terrestrial television, but that move has been criticized.

Experts advise that a better solution would be for broadcasters to transmit programs via eight-level vestigial sideband modulation, but under the commission’s regulations, the stream conversion can only be provided in terrestrial service. It would only take a few tweaks to the rules for analog cable subscribers to enjoy digital broadcasting, but the commission has yet to revise its outdated regulations.

The government’s ambitious project to digitize television will never be fully realized if it focuses purely on terrestrial broadcasters and their customers. The commission should aim to include all viewers in the transition, not just existing players like terrestrial broadcasters and Internet protocol television providers.

Together with the relevant officials and experts, the presidential hopefuls should develop policies to remedy this problem and ensure that all citizens have access to quality television programming.

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