ⓘ Korean Central Television


ⓘ Korean Central Television

Korean Central Television is a television service operated by the Korean Central Broadcasting Committee, a state-owned broadcaster in North Korea. It is the only official source of television news for North Koreans.


1. History

KCTV was established on 1 September 1953 as Pyongyang Television after the Korean War ended. Kim Il-sung personally envisioned that the time was ripe for television broadcasting in North Korea, but this was not yet to happen. Thus, the PBN began an 8-year period of preparation for commencement of television broadcasts, with the help of the national government.

The station later was renamed as Central Television Broadcasting System in 1961, and conducted on 1 September the same year its first test broadcasts.

The CTBS_DPRK officially began operations on 3 March 1963 at 19:00 7:00 pm KST based in Pyongyang, broadcasting two hours between 19:00 7:00 pm until 21:00 9:00 pm KST on weekdays only, and then expanding to 4 and later 6 hours.

The network carried live the whole proceedings of the 5th Workers Party of Korea Congress held on 1 October 1970.

The CTBS would later be renamed Korean Central Television KCTV and was officially relaunched at 17:00 5:00 pm local time on 3 January 1973 the first working day in 1973 in North Korea. The broadcasting hours were only on weekdays workdays in North Korea and closed on weekends and national holidays.

KCTV officially began color television broadcasts on 1 July 1974 and broadcast the first live color telecast in preparation for the 7th Asian Games held in Tehran via satellite transmission on 1 September 1974, the first network to do so. KCTV was the first live color television channel to broadcast the New Years Eve in color on 31 December 1974, and in 1975 began weekend broadcasts as well. KCTV started their full-time color broadcasts on 1 September 1977.

The first broadcast received via satellite television broadcasts was the 22nd Summer Olympic Games on 19 July 1980.

KCTV started broadcasting on national holidays on 1 March 1981. On national holidays, the broadcasting time of each station is the same as weekends save for major ones.

The channel was the official host broadcaster of the 1989 13th World Festival of Youth and Students.

On 19 January 2015, KCTV started experimental high-definition television broadcasts via digital satellite as part of its modernization of the network. Although the broadcaster has been producing a growing number of shows in 16:9 format for several years, the station was still natively broadcasting in 4:3 format and widescreen programmes therefore had to be shown letterboxed. For satellite transmissions, this meant that the stations 4:3 output was broadcast with black bars on both sides, resulting in widescreen programmes getting windowboxed.

The station began natively broadcasting in 16:9 widescreen with stereophonic sound on 4 December 2017, one of the last state-run broadcasters to do so, albeit several years after other developed nations have done so. To reflect this change, the stations graphics have been refreshed and its test card has been changed for the first time since 1980.


2. Programming and schedules

Nowadays, the KCTV broadcasts only 8 hours each day from 14:30 until 22:40 PYT daily, and 14 hours from 08:30 to 22:40 PYT or later on Sundays and key national holidays. There is another exception, for the emergency events in North Korea at night or daytime, it starts up without any announcers or the Voice of Korea interval signal. The station is open until that event becomes normal. The stations output was dominated by propaganda programs focusing on the history and achievements of the ruling Korean Workers Party, the Korean Peoples Army KPA and Kim Jong-un. News topics cover range from new construction projects to history lessons about the accomplishments and past of the "founding father" Kim Il-sung, as well as his son Kim Jong-il, and grandson and current leader Kim Jong-un and the Juche idea. Other program topics such as health and education are also aired. Locally produced feature films, childrens programs, and patriotic musical shows and filmed theatre shows are also shown on the networks. On national holidays, military parades, musical performances and movies, plus more special programs are shown on all three networks.

By December 2018, Korean Central Televisions programs had begun to gain a more contemporary feel, toning down the previous historical propaganda programming in favor of showcasing the North Korean people. Programming was observed to have featured more field reporting with visible anchors, and a looser, more energetic presentation, as opposed to the strictly authoritarian style used before. The station also began to employ younger on-air personalities, reporters wearing modern attire, and presentation elements such as double boxes, drone-mounted aerial cameras, and including production staff on-camera such as a staff member interrupting the news anchor to deliver her an update to a previous story to give the programs a more dynamic and unedited feel. Kim Jong-uns New Years address also experienced a change in style, with the leader delivering the speech from an armchair in a library room rather than from a podium. Experiments with further modernization occurred in March and May 2019, when the channels newscasts began experimenting with more extensive use of three-dimensional infographics including 3D text overlaid into video footage, drone footage, and time-lapse video during economic reports.

Analysts felt that these shifts in tone were intended to make the programmes production values more in line with international broadcasters appealing to those that have managed to access such programmes, and to make the propaganda-based programmes more appealing to younger audiences.

The following illustrates part of a typical days broadcasting on KCTV on weekdays:


3. News service

Newsreaders wear the same outfit every day, though they may vary in color black and blue for male newsreaders and green and pink for female, and have the same haircut for everyone of the same gender. Newscasters must strongly project their voices when on air. Newscasts start typically with a blank red or blue slide, followed by a slow fade to the anchor. The set has the background of Pyongyang with the Taedong river. Nowadays even Mt. Baekdu or another view of Pyongyang is used as the background for the newscasts; however, a newer studio was introduced in September 2012, including a background LCD panel paid by CCTV of PRC where live images such as a revolving globe or the flag of North Korea are shown. This technological advancement allows live reportages, though it has not been used for that purpose.

North Korean newscasts were long known for being melodramatic. Newsreaders use one of five tones - a lofty, wavering one for praising the nations leaders, an explanatory one for weather forecasts, a conversational one for uncontroversial stories, one denouncing the West and a mournful tone for announcing the death of a North Korean official or leader. Many North Korean journalists who have defected to the South have noted the contrasts with the more conversational South Korean broadcasting style. Longtime chief newsreader Ri Chun-hee was well known for her melodramatic style.

From 2012 the news intro uses the Juche Tower and a revolving globe before the news logo appears, with the introduction from the song "Might of Korea" as background music. The late-night version uses slow instrumental music. The main 20:00 news and 22:30 late news program intros were updated again in 2014, with the same musical background but with a new logo and graphics. The introduction begins with the map of the world, zooming into the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea North Korea, then a wall of clips from the stations news programming including one of the countrys mass parades, a rocket launch, scenes from farming and industries, and several sports. The introduction ends with the Earth wrapped around a band of the flag of North Korea and the Korean characters 보도 for "Report".


4. Broadcasting

The station began its first color broadcasts on 1 July 1974 follows the PAL system with 576i scanning lines.

In 1980, North Korea started relay reception by a communication satellite television.

In March 2012 the news readers began presenting news items in front of a computer-generated background. A graphic to accompany the story appears above the right or left shoulder - a style almost universally used in other countries by that time. When the report begins the graphic moves forward to fill the screen.

In September 2012, China Central Television of PRC, pledged about US$800.000 of equipment to help improve its news broadcast. Since then news were shown with a screen panel that shows images and videos in movement.

Korean Central Televisions used the Pyongyang TV Tower as transmission sites.

Official, government-sanctioned and -operated television stations are the only ones that citizens are allowed to watch. Any television sets acquired by citizens are altered by the government beforehand, to receive only the official channels. This includes a tamper-evident seal which will show if the televisions owner has attempted to tamper with components of the television. This is seen as evidence of that person attempting to receive foreign television from Mainland China, South Korea, Japan or Taiwan, and if discovered, the owner is subject for harsh penalties including imprisonment in one of North Koreas many forced-labour concentration camps.


5. Availability

Outside North Korea

KCTV was first broadcast free-to-air on Thaicom 5 on 1 August 2010, so with the appropriate equipment can be picked up in Southeast Asia, Australasia, Middle East, Africa and Europe and on Intelsat 21 in America and Europe.

Since March 2019, KCTV HD Thaicom 5 signal is also being relayed by Koreasat 5A, a South Korean satellite owned by KT Sat, a unit of KT Corporation, to allow media outlets and journalists base in Seoul to continue monitoring the channel. This is due to the new 5G cellular networks which was launched in the city uses frequencies that overlap with KCTV satellite frequency, making the feed unwatchable.

The daily KCTV news bulletin is also distributed online with Japanese subtitles through a Chongryon-supported website.


6. Test card

During the last 30 minutes of the broadcast of the tuning table, patriotic songs or classical musical works of the DPRK are played. There are minor test card changes from time-to-time.

  • 4 December 2017 – present: EBU Colour Bars and modified Philips PM5644 testcard with digital clock. Towards the top of the testcard Chosŏngŭl characters for "Korean Central Television" are written below an image of Mount Paektus Heaven Lake emblazoned on a sky blue background.
  • c.1980s – 3 December 2017: EBU Colour Bars and modified Philips PM5544 testcard with digital clock. Towards the top of the testcard Chosŏngŭl characters for "Pyongyang" are written on either side of a chollima emblazoned on a blue background.