▲ KCTV English News Producer Bu Hye Seon and anchor Nik Brountas. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
KCTV English News quietly hit the three-year mark last month in the midst of the Jeju broadcasting company going completely high definition (HD) and switching their main programming to Channel 7.
Two people are primarily responsible for the nascent rise of Korea’s only locally and daily produced English news program.
Producer Bu Hye Seon and anchor Nik Brountas were part of the first simplified 10-minute broadcast on July 14, 2008. Today, many add-ons – including full translated and occasional field reports by Jeju residents and foreigners, in depth local weather and newspaper headlines, “In-the-News” segments and national Arirang TV reports – mark a professional product that can be viewed Monday through Friday nights in HD for roughly 17 minutes starting at 7:30, 10 and 11:30, and the following mornings at 7:40. In addition, video-on-demand with English and Korean scripts is available online at www.kctvjeju.com .
All this is impressive considering none of the past or current workers directly associated with KCTV English News have had any prior experience in television broadcasting.
“It’s all a blur,” joked Brountas, a 13-year resident of the island who has worked at Jeju College of Technology for the last seven. “I see [my future here] going as it is. It’s been interesting, difficult at times ... working within a real Korean corporate environment [and as the first] foreigner to have ever worked here.”
The biggest part of the company is being an Internet and cable provider, Brountas offered. The programming section is split into two parts: news and general programming. Most things are in-house; a few are freelanced. There is the Korean news, and there are several programs within that, English News, and the once-a-week airing of Chinese News.
Moreover, the amount of work that goes into an English News daily broadcast is staggering considering the few people involved.
“Actually, I [have my hand in] everything with English News,” Jeju native Bu said, displaying a tripartite mix of strict, sassy, and stern, later jesting about her immense workload: “Can I say I am most proud of myself? I didn’t know anything about broadcasting ... so I learn something new every day.”
Bu’s day starts with a staff meeting where the Korean bosses do all the news briefings, followed by discussion of general and English News work. Sending and receiving Arirang TV reports comes next. Short news and daily newspaper headline translations, audio recording and editing, taking care of exchange rates and weather, and creating paperwork for other staff happens early in the day.
“Our reporters usually come in the morning,” explained Bu, who often goes by her English name Sarah. “So we have to discuss the translations. When they are done with the recording, I do the audio editing. We give it to a cameraman, discuss, and do the video editing.”
Brountas starts his morning at 10 and edits the translated news – minus the full reports – he receives from Bu and translator Heo Ji Yun.
“And, I edit the interviews and anchors’ leads,” he added. “I write headlines. Also, I write the brief weather script and now, as part of the new program, edit translated headlines of daily Korean newspapers.”
The Korean news bosses have complete control over content for English News.
“When all the preparations are finished, we go downstairs around 2:30 and we check video and computer graphics and other papers we need,” Bu said, “and start recording [with Brountas in the anchor’s chair] at 3. Usually it takes 30 or 40 minutes, nowadays.”
As Brountas checks out around 4, Bu does the video editing and uploads the video to the main computer, which “takes two hours as the file is really huge,” she said. “Finally, my bosses give me the next day’s stories and news.” Bu and Heo split translating duties for short news. Cho Sun Hee translates almost all reports that an English News reporter eventually edits and reads.
This frenetic pace produces two ideas: those people extolling the positives, and those offering what the future may hold for the program.
“We get a lot of compliments,” Bu started. “English News is one of the most popular shows at KCTV,” citing, among others, the amount of local Korean media reporters who watch the program.
“Jeju province always talks about how they will transform Jeju into an international city,” Bu said. “The government and some Jeju-based companies, their ideal goal is to make Jeju a global location spot. The KCTV CEO, this was his big goal, he’s very interested in English education and teaching English to educate Jeju residents. This kind of program can be helpful.”
KCTV also runs a freelanced, learning English program called “Hi, Jeju” and the popular in-house “Challenge Quiz Champ.”
From the public, Bu and Brountas collectively explained that many viewers want an English news program that runs parallel in content to the Korean news on the same night.
“I don’t know what the future is, but that is what we want it to be,” Brountas said. “I don’t think people know what that entails, especially when we have such a small staff.”
For now, they can be content with the recent switch to HD. The change from Channel 5 to 7 was a bit accidental, as Bu reasoned: “The company had to try and test HD broadcasting and Channel 7 was empty. They had really positive responses, because it was between SBS (Ch. 6) and MBC (Ch. 8). It’s in the middle and it increases the chances viewers go through and stop at Channel 7 [and watch English News].”
Disclaimer: Steve Oberhauser has worked part time for KCTV English News since March 2009.
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