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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Meagre media for North Koreans
By Ian Liston-Smith
BBC Monitoring

N Korea TV presenter
North Korea has three state-controlled TV stations

All the media in North Korea are controlled by the ruling Korean Workers' Party, led by its General-Secretary Kim Jong-il.

Newspapers, radio and television are used to disseminate propaganda and flattering accounts of Kim Jong-il and his daily agenda. Negative news about the country - such as economic hardships or famine - is ignored.

A report from the official news agency, KCNA, of the nuclear test was carried on radio and TV - initially in Korean and later in English - where it was described as "a historic event which greatly encouraged and pleased the Korean army and people".

Radio and TV sets in North Korea are supplied pre-tuned to government stations and radios must be checked and registered with the police. Some North Koreans purchase a second radio set that is not registered, enabling them to listen to foreign broadcasts.

Reports from refugees say that there are also those who take the risk of opening the preset radios in order to be able to tune into other frequencies. More and more radios are reaching the country, especially the capital Pyongyang, from China.

North Korean authorities designated radios as "new enemies of the regime" in 2004.

Refugees also report that the Workers Party launched a campaign to check radios at the end of 2003. The head of each party cell in neighbourhoods and villages received instructions to verify the seals on all radios.

The authorities designated radios as "new enemies of the regime" on 13th June 2004.

TV and the web

There are three television channels, all government-controlled.

Two of them broadcast only at weekends, the other is on the air only in the evenings.

Audiences are low, however. Latest UN data shows there are only 55 TV sets for every 1,000 people in North Korea. In the South there are 347 per 1,000 people.

Internet access in North Korea is restricted to a small section of the elite who have received state approval and to 200 or so foreigners living in Pyongyang. The state blocks all foreign websites. Mobile phone use was banned in 2004.

In the absence of the internet and satellite dishes, the only way for many North Koreans to sidestep the official propaganda is to tune into Korean-language broadcasts from foreign radio stations.

However, North Koreans caught listening to these broadcasts risk harsh punishments, such as forced labour.

Smuggled soap

The regime may well be facing a challenge however - from a minor technological revolution.

Cheap second-hand video recorders smuggled from China can now be bought in North Korea for the equivalent of $30 to $40 as Chinese viewers upgrade to DVD players.

This puts ownership of a video recorder within the reach of many households where they are largely used for copying and watching smuggled tapes of South Korean TV soap operas, which in recent years have become major hits in North Korea.

These soap operas compete for audiences with typical government programming, such as "Great Workers Party of Korea, Shine all over the World!", "Leading the Final Attack Operation for the Fatherland's Liberation to Victory" and "Immortal Achievement of Brilliantly Embodying the Idea of Down-With-Imperialism Union Through Military-First Revolutionary Leadership".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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