NHK WORLD

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

1950s-70s

Major developments in international broadcasting 1950s-70s

1980s-90s

Major developments in international broadcasting 1980s-90s

2000-2015

Major developments in international broadcasting 2000-2015

1946-1951 Showa 21-26

GHQ Stops International Broadcasting
~ End of National-Policy Broadcasts ~

CHRONICLE  >  1946–1951 >  GHQ Stops International Broadcasting  | A Temporary Suspension… Aiming for a New NHK

Tables of major events

’46
  • 3/5. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech
  • 4/10. 1st general election after war. Women get suffrage.
  • 5/3~11/12/1948. Tokyo Tribunal
  • 7/1. U.S. tests A-bomb in Bikini.
  • 11/3. Constitution promulgated.
’47
  • 5/3. Constitution takes effect (sovereignty of people, emperor as symbol, renunciation of war, equal rights for men and women).
  • 8/6. 1st Peace Festival in Hiroshima. McArthur sends message.
’48
  • 4/1. Berlin Blockade by Soviet Union
  • 8/6. At Hiroshima Peace Ceremony, Mayor Hamai says citizens’ only wish is peace.
  • 8. Birth of Republic of Korea
  • 9. Birth of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
’49
  • 5. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum opens.
  • 8/15. India and Pakistan independent.
  • 8/29. Soviet Union succeeds in A-bomb test.
  • 10/1. People’s Republic of China established.
  • 11/3. Hideki Yukawa wins Nobel Prize in Physics

More

STILL, INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING HAD A MISSION

After the war, the roles of international broadcasting changed. Japan’s signing of the surrender document was broadcast worldwide. The Allied Powers’ General Headquarters (GHQ) ordered NHK to stop its broadcasting abroad. But such broadcasting had another mission, as many Japanese left behind in former Manchuria and other parts of Asia were trying to come home.

No More Policy Broadcasts

9/2/45. Ceremony to sign a surrender document with the Allied Powers on the Missouri. Supreme Commander General MacArthur.

9/2/45. Ceremony to sign a surrender document with the Allied Powers on the Missouri. Supreme Commander General MacArthur.

5/17/46. Female Diet representatives elected under constitutional right (90th Imeprial Diet session, Tokyo).

5/17/46. Female Diet representatives elected under constitutional right (90th Imeprial Diet session, Tokyo).

11/3/47. Rally to celebrate the promulgation of the Constitution (in front of the Imperial Palace).

11/3/47. Rally to celebrate the promulgation of the Constitution (in front of the Imperial Palace).

On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the act of surrender on the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The location is said to be where Commodore Perry signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce aboard his flagship Powhatan 160 years ago. The stage was set by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Douglas MacArthur. But he is said to have been unable to hide his tension before he spoke on board.

“Today, the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended….” The 23-minute signing ceremony was relayed from the communications ship Ancon to the world.

GHQ stopped overseas broadcasts

Two days later, at midnight on September 4, all foreign-language broadcasts were stopped by a GHQ order. For a week from September 5, the GHQ went on the air with a message in English to Allied soldiers held in Japan as prisoners of war. “Stay where you are, and wait for a release.” With the broadcast in Japanese at 16:00 Japan time on September 10, all overseas broadcasts were stopped.

Official overseas broadcasting was suspended for six years and five months. It resumed on February.1, 1952.

Except for Returnees

But not all overseas services were stopped. Many Japanese were left in former Manchuria, on the Korean Peninsula, and in countries and territories in the South Pacific. There were about 6.6 million of them. They may have doubted that the emperor’s broadcast was real, or suspected that the enemy faked the surrender. To remove such thoughts and worries about the future, Japan sought the GHQ’s permission to broadcast for returnees.

On September 26, NHK started “Broadcasts for Overseas Troops” to air Radio 1’s programs to Beijing and Taiwan. It later changed the name to “For Japanese Abroad,” and aired it to Shanghai, too.

It is not known how many Japanese were able to listen to the radio. But for the lucky ones who could, one can imagine the broadcasts served to prompt them to go back to Japan as soon as possible.

FEN (AFN), Broadcasting for U.S. Forces

Toward the end of the Pacific War, the U.S. forces opened what they called the Jungle Network in New Guinea and the Philippines, after the Japanese forces pulled out. They aired news and entertainment programs to their bases and invited Japanese troops to surrender. The name Far East Network (FEN) was first used in Manila. The network later opened a station in Okinawa. After the war, on September 21, MacArthur seized an NHK facility to air programs for U.S. forces stationed in Japan on Radio 2.

In 1997, FEN became AFN (American Forces Network). Later, it began to offer TV broadcasting. As an overseas broadcaster, it serves a specific purpose for the U.S. offering services to its bases around the world.

A Temporary Suspension…
Aiming for a New NHK

Tables of major events

’50
  • 6/1. Three Radio Laws take effect: Broadcast Law, Radio Law and law to set up Radio Regulatory Commission. New NHK and commercial broadcasters launched.
  • 6/25. Korean War begins.
’51
  • 9. San Francisco Peace Treaty signed. (52 nations take part; Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Poland refuse to sign.)

A TURNAROUND FROM PROPAGANDA    GHQ PROMOTING DEMOCRACY UNDER NEW LAW

International broadcasting was suspended. But domestic radio broadcasting continued. The GHQ checked content with a stern eye as an occupation policy, as it aimed to use broadcasting to reorient Japan’s education. Autonomy was a prerequisite if broadcasting was to help democracy take root after the GHQ left Japan.

GHQ’s Control of Broadcasting

Broadcasting Hall in Tokyo. GHQ seized part of the building to use it as an office in charge of controlling broadcasting.

Broadcasting Hall in Tokyo. GHQ seized part of the building to use it as an office in charge of controlling broadcasting.

The 1940 Tokyo Olympics never took place. NHK Broadcasting Hall in Tokyo would have transmitted the event to the world. The GHQ seized part of the facility and opened an office in charge of civic information to control broadcasting.

The Civil Information and Education Section was led by “New Dealers” who supported the Roosevelt administration, just as the Government Section was. They were working with the lofty ideal of building in Japan a democratic system even better than that in the United States.

The History of Broadcasting in Japan in the 20th Century says the GHQ felt that the Japanese liked the feudal system, and had bellicose patriotism, a divine sense of mission, and a sense of racial superiority. The GHQ aimed to change them to democratic, peace-loving people and use broadcasting to reeducate them. In November 1945, it told the government to set a plan to produce enough radios for half of Japan’s households.

Stern Censorship

The GHQ released a memo on freedom of speech that said this principle would encourage constructive debate on the future of Japan, as it was restarting as a peace-loving nation. But the memo said the GHQ would ban programs that departed from truth or disturbed public peace. And it began to censor programs based on its radio codes.

The book on the history of broadcasting in Japan cites one example of how strict the censorship was. The GHQ banned a haiku, or 17-syllable traditional Japanese poem, that described a kitchen garden as “green in burned-out rubble,” saying it would remind people of air raids.

Broadcasting made a complete turnaround from prewar militarism. But now, amid the calls for peace, security and reeducation, it came under control from the opposite direction.

New NHK as Broadcast Law Enacted

The GHQ was well aware that ensuring a democratic system for broadcasting after the occupation was a big challenge for Japan. Under the pre-war Radio Telegraph Law, broadcasting had been mostly at the discretion of the minister in charge. So the GHQ enacted the Broadcast Law, giving more autonomy to broadcasters for their mission to help build a democratic nation. The Broadcast Law, the Radio Law and the law to establish the Radio Regulatory Commission are called the Three Radio Laws. They took effect on June 1, 1950. This led to the birth of the new NHK and commercial broadcasters.

International broadcasting had to wait until February 1952 to resume.

Korean War and Broadcasting in Korean
The Korean War. UN soldiers fighting on a street in Seoul (South Korea).

The Korean War. UN soldiers fighting on a street in Seoul (South Korea).

On June 29, 1950, the GHQ began broadcasting in Korean on NHK’s Radio 2 channel from Tokyo, Matsue and Fukuoka. The Korean War had begun four days before, and North Korea seized Seoul in a swift attack. The GHQ had to stop broadcasting from South Korea. This broadcast in Korean from Japan was later called VUNC (Voice of the United Nations Command) after the U.N. Forces were formed. It and VOA (Voice of America) in Korean from the U.S. via an NHK relay station aired programs to cheer up troops in South Korea. Under the Broadcast Law, which took effect about a month earlier, broadcasters were not allowed to let others use their facilities without permission from the Radio Regulatory Commission. But NHK used the pretext of offering a foreign language service. The GHQ granted autonomy to media. But it found itself restrained by the new laws. VOA’s use of NHK’s relay station ended when the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect in June 1952. But VUNC’s use of NHK’s Radio 2 channel continued until 1960 as an exception.