The Dawn of Overseas Broadcasting

Major developments in international broadcasting The Dawn of Overseas Broadcasting

1935[International Broadcasting Begins in Japan]-1940s

Major developments in international broadcasting  1935[International Broadcasting Begins in Japan in]-1940s


Major developments in international broadcasting 1950s-70s


Major developments in international broadcasting 1980s-90s


Major developments in international broadcasting 2000-2015

2005-2008Heisei 17-20

Broadcasting Abroad for 70 YearsYour Window on Asia

CHRONICLE  >  2005–2008 >  Broadcasting Abroad for 70 Years  | NHK WORLD TV Accelerating Efforts Toward All-English

Tables of major events

  • 3/22. 80th anniversary of radio broadcasting in Japan
  • 3/25~9.25. Expo Aichi Japan
  • 4/1. Personal Information Protection Law takes effect in Japan.
  • 11/17. Fabrication of anti-quake resistance data for condos and hotels revealed in Japan.
  • 2/10~26. Torino Olympics
  • 9/26. First Abe administration launched.
  • 10/9. North Korea conducts underground nuclear weapon test.
  • 10/29. RADIO JAPAN’s Satellite radio broadcasting in Arabic begins to all Arab areas and Europe.
  • 11. Al Jazeera English launches.
  • 12/6. France 24 starts airing news.
  • 2/18. 1st Tokyo Marathon
  • 2. 50 million pension records found missing in Japan.
  • 3. RADIO JAPAN Podcasting of news in foreign languages begins (in 21 languages except Japanese).
  • 7/16. Earthquake off Chuetsu in Niigata Prefecture
  • 8. U.S. subprime mortgage crisis causes confusion in global economy and finances.
  • 1/30. Poisoned frozen gyoza dumplings from China
  • 3. Uprising in Tibet
  • 4/1. Revised Broadcast Law takes effect (overseas broadcasting divided for Japanese and non-Japanese).
  • 4. Japan International Broadcasting established.
  • 5/12. Wenchuan Earthquake in China
  • 8/8~24. Beijing Olympics
  • 9. Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt.
  • 10. NHK’s 100% English overseas TV broadcasting for foreign nationals achieved.
  • Worldwide recession



The year 2005 marked the 70th anniversary of international broadcasting in Japan. As calls were growing for Japan to do more to send information abroad, debate over how to do that heated up. In 2007, the Broadcast Law was amended to separate broadcasting services for Japanese and non-Japanese. This led to the official definition of NHK WORLD TV as an English channel.

70 Years after the Start

“J-MELO” went on the air in October 2005. First MC, Mai Takematsu (herbalist).

“J-MELO” went on the air in October 2005. First MC, Mai Takematsu (herbalist).

“TOKYO EYE” started in 2006. MC, Chris Peppler.

“TOKYO EYE” started in 2006. MC, Chris Peppler.

After 70 years, the catchphrases for 2005 were “You can see Japan, you can hear Japan” for Japanese abroad, and “Your Window on Asia” for foreign audiences. A new English program on Asia was added on weeknights. NHK did this and made other efforts to improve even more news programs. It reported in detail on a huge tsunami in the Indian Ocean that hit many areas in Asia at the end of 2004.

Law Amended, Emphasis on News

After the Cold War, CNN of the U.S. and the BBC of Britain led the TV news reporting race. Others, including CCTV of China and Al Jazeera of Qatar, later joined the race, introducing 24-hour English channels. In Japan, an increasing number of people were calling for more news broadcasting from Japan.

In December 2007, the Broadcast Law was amended, providing for a new system for overseas services.

Different Services for Japanese and Foreign Viewers

The amendment stipulated that NHK should offer different services for Japanese and non-Japanese viewers. As for non-Japanese viewers, NHK held a subsidiary to help with international broadcasting.

The subsidiary, Japan International Broadcasting Inc., was established in April 2008. In October, it increased its capital, taking investments from the private sector. And it began full operation with work commissioned by NHK and its own business activities.

In April 2008, NHK began working to improve reception for overseas TV viewers by leasing space on regional satellites. As of December 2008, it was reaching 80 million households.

From Orders to Requests

In November 2006, then Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshihide Suga said in a government order to NHK that it should pay special consideration to abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea. Under the Broadcast Law every fiscal year, the communications minister designated broadcasting areas, matters to be broadcast and related issues for international broadcasting. Until this time, such orders were given in general terms in relation to government positions on current affairs, important national policies or international issues. This was the first time that the order was given on a specific subject.

In a revision to the Broadcast Law in 2007, “orders” was changed to “requests.” The law now says the minister should pay attention to NHK’s editorial freedom when issuing requests. It also says NHK should carefully consider the requests and decide whether to comply. If NHK decides that a request infringes upon its editorial rights, it can decline.

How J-Melo Started

It was summer of 2006 when the idea surfaced to create a program now called “J-Melo.” I had several ideas, and my friend Dave Spector chose the name, saying “Melo” was short for “Mellow” and “Melody.”

The question was, “what should its concept be?” Its time slot was 28 minute long. Forty slots per year would add up to only 18 hours and 40 minutes. So we had to focus. We asked, “What is the charm of music in Japan?” The answer was diversity. Music in Japan is a mixture of all the most fashionable music of each age, from gagaku, or court music, to hip-hop. It seems like each kind of music has been “Japanized” and continues to be very alive.

The first broadcast was in October of that year. For half a year, we heard hardly any reactions. Quite a few people said, “What is this program about?” Ten years later, we get requests for more than 400 Japanese artists. Sometimes, requests for the same artists come from countries with various backgrounds, such as Syria and Israel, and the U.S. and Iran.

The viewers of J-MELO are connected, individual to individual, across borders and languages, just like music resonates from heart to heart.

(J-MELO Senior Producer Etsushi Harada)

NHK WORLD TV Accelerating Efforts Toward All-English


As globalization progressed, leading international broadcasters did even more to send information abroad. In order not to be left behind, Japan set a higher goal for English broadcasting.

Aiming for “More English”

“NEWSLINE,” flagship news program of NHK WORLD TV (photo taken in 2008).

“NEWSLINE,” flagship news program of NHK WORLD TV (photo taken in 2008).

In this environment, people at NHK WORLD TV were trying hard to increase the ratio of English to Japanese. Under the slogan, “More English,” they were making more programs in English. They aired many featuring music, trendy topics, food, and so on to promote the charms of Japan to the world. “J-MELO” presented fascinating aspects of Japanese music. “TOKYO EYE” showed viewers what was going on in the capital. Many programs that are popular now were introduced at this time.

In fiscal 2005, 55.2% of NHK WORLD TV’s programming was in English. In fiscal 2006, the figure increased to 73%, and in fiscal 2007, 91.1%. In line with this, NHK’s budget for international broadcasting, kept increasing.

Bigger Budget for TV than Radio

In 2008, when overseas services were separated for Japanese and non-Japanese, the budget for TV exceeded that for radio for the first time. The budget for overseas broadcasting as a whole was more than 15-billion yen. The goal of 100-percent English was achieved in October 2008, with services including dubbing and subtitles. Viewers were able to tune in to broadcasts in English around the clock.

NHK WORLD PREMIUM in Japanese Language

NHK WORLD PREMIUM, the TV broadcasting service in Japanese, is a subscription-based channel. But from October 2008, it aired mainly news and information programs free of charge for about five hours a day.


Radio Japan reviewed its transmitting areas and services, as Europe and the U.S. were shifting their overseas transmissions from shortwave radio to television. At the end of September 2007, it ended its services in four languages, German, Italian, Swedish and Malay. It also canceled its general service around the world in Japanese and English. For its regional service, it reduced the number of languages it broadcast in from 22 to 18 including Japanese.


In March 2007, NHK WORLD’s internet service, NHK WORLD ONLINE, began distributing news podcasts in the languages of RADIO JAPAN’s service. This was in addition to live streaming of news and other information programs in all the languages of its service, and video feeds in some languages.

“Aim for 100 Percent English!”

In 2003, there were two goals for NHK’s international broadcasting. One was to shift emphasis from radio to television. The other was to broadcast more in English. There are many languages in the world. But the immediate goal was to focus on English. In those days, “the English rate” was a key phrase in programming. It refers to what percentage of daily programming is offered in English. In 2003, it was 33.5%. In October 2008, it finally reached 100%. The programs created then include “J-MELO” and “Japan Biz Cast.” We came up with the tagline “Your Eye on Asia” to promote the image that we offered accurate and fair reporting on Asia.

We were prompted to do this as France, Germany, China, South Korea and the Middle East began to offer international TV broadcasting in English in the mid-2000s. We, people in non-English-speaking countries, shared a sense of crisis that we would be left far behind the BBC and CNN if we continued to broadcast only in our languages. We are doing our broadcasts in English with a heavy hand. Our challenges continue.

(Toshiyuki Sato, former head of International Planning & Broadcasting Dept.)