An Analysis of Media Researchers' Perceptions of the Digitalization of Broadcasting in Korea

Article excerpt

Abstract

In Korea, researchers from universities and research institutions have exerted a significant role in planning, reviewing, and performing policy initiatives. This paper categorizes and assesses the perceptions of twenty-two researchers, whose areas are directly linked to digital cable television policy, technology, and industry. The subjectivity of digital television was examined from the perspective of social shaping of technology (SST), which is halfway between technological determinism and social determinism. Media researchers were asked to answer 36 Q-statements covering comprehensive dimensions about digital cable television. The result shows that the perceptions of participants fell into three types: (1) market-focused discontents, (2) public interest and broadcast supporters, and (3) regulation-oriented optimists. All three types agreed that the digitalization is a meaningful and important change for the cable industry and that the current regulation system in Korea must be revised to serve new developments in the field of media.

Key words

digitalization, cable television, subjectivity, policy elite, SST

Introduction

A recent and salient trend in broadcast technology throughout the world is the digitalization of production, distribution, and signal delivery platforms for television and radio (Tadayoni et al., 2005). The introduction of digital television represents the most significant innovation since the advent of television itself. Digital broadcast delivery multiplies the number of channels available and transforms the nature of the television medium by making it interactive. The process of digitalization merges technologies used in broadcasting, computing, and telecommunications and offers the potential for a whole range of new applications, such as electronic retail services, Internet access, and pay-per-view options (Chalaby & Segell, 1999).

Over the next 10-20 years, it is expected that the current 1.4 billion analog TV sets in the world will be replaced by digital sets. Many countries have already started the transition from analog to digital television (Wu et al., 2007). Digital cable subscriber numbers in the United States came close to reaching the 35 million mark at the end of the second quarter of 2007, which represents a 30 percent increase in comparison to the second quarter of 2006 (National Cable and Telecommunications Association, 2007). Digital Terrestrial Television in many parts of Europe has turned into a free-to-air platform (Iosifidis, 2007). In Korea, digital broadcasting is expected to replace the terrestrial wave television by the year 2012 (Korean Broadcasting Commission, 2007). In preparation for this replacement, on July 1 of 2005, cable providers initiated digital cable broadcasting services as a pilot service. Beginning with digital broadcasting, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and data broadcasting, the digital cable industry will gradually adopt ITV (Interactive Television) commercialization, TPS (Triple Play Services), QPS (Quad Play Services), and wireless cable services in the year 2009, and soon after, will launch "cable home networks" in Korean households (Kim, 2007).

In terms of technological advancement, the digitalization of broadcasting in Korea is currently considered to be at a mature stage. From the perspective of technological determinism which claims that the fundamental changes are driven by technological factors, 'digital' technology already became a critical factor in market competition in Korea by changing the environment that surrounds broadcasting services. However, social forces that adopt new technology should not be overlooked (Chalaby & Segell, 1999).

The discussion currently underway regarding the digital conversion of cable television not only deals the ways in which digital technology should change the broadcast environment of cable but also observes the various social factors involved in the digitalization drive. …