General Service Goes Worldwide
CHRONICLE ＞ 1960–1964 ＞ General Service Goes Worldwide ｜ Broadcasting Tokyo Olympics to World
Tables of major events
- 1/19. New Japan-U.S. Security Treaty signed.
- 2/13. France succeeds in its 1st A-bomb test.
- 9/4. NHK starts general world service.
- 10/27. Ikeda Cabinet compiles income-doubling plan.
- 1/20. President Kennedy takes office.
- 4/12. Soviets send Gagarin to space on Vostok 1 in 1st manned spaceflight.
- 9. Summit of nonaligned nations
- Kyu Sakamoto’s “Let’s look up when we walk,” or “SUKIYAKI,” a big hit.
1/9. Radio Japan ranks 7th in ISWC’s popularity vote.
8/12. Ken-ichi Horie sails solo across Pacific on yacht.
10/22. Cuban missile crisis
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring published.
ALONG WITH REGIONAL SERVICE FOR 18 REGIONS IN 20 LANGUAGES
In the early 1960s, Radio Japan began offering unified general service around the world. People could now listen to Radio Japan’s news in Japanese or English anywhere. Also, major revisions were made to international programs based on the International Broadcasting Standards provided for under the Broadcast Law.
You Can Hear It Anywhere in World
Destination map in NHK Yearbook 16 (4/62-3/63).
11/22/63. At 12:30 p.m. local time, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. First Japan-U.S. satellite relay sent the news to Japan. Photo: AP & Aflo
Fiscal 1959 and ‘60 marked a great leap for international broadcasting. Airtime was expanded from 15 hours a day to 29 hours on separate channels. Languages offered in broadcast services increased to 18. This expansion was supported by the public amid growing internationalization. The decision that Japan was to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics certainly helped.
Standards Set for International Programs
Under the Revised Broadcast Law enacted in March 1958, NHK became able to offer international broadcasting on its own in addition to that done under government orders. The law also set standards for international programs requiring NHK to air news promptly and offer fair news analyses in Japanese and English. NHK was also required to make programs based on freedom and justice, report facts and public opinions accurately and objectively, introduce Japan’s industries and culture, and offer adequate knowledge and comfort to fellow Japanese abroad. In all, the revised law spelled out, in four chapters, what NHK should do to achieve its goal of international broadcasting.
General Service (GS) and Regional Service (RS) in Tandem
In this environment, NHK started general service on September 4, 1960. Until that time, it had been offering what it called regional service to different groups of countries and territories in their languages. Now, general service offered news and news analyses in Japanese or English to the world. In 1963, a year before the Tokyo Olympics, it became a regular service with a 30-minute slot every hour on the hour for 12 hours a day.
New Programs One after Another
Based on the new standards, many programs were revised. Current events programs were added. Programs were made easier to listen to and more familiar to listeners. Among the new programs were “Listeners’ Hour,” an interactive program, and “Let’s Speak Japanese” for foreign learners of the language.
More Letters from Listeners
As international broadcasting increased, listeners sent in more letters and reports. In fiscal 1952, when overseas broadcasting resumed, only 182 letters were received. In fiscal 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, the number shot up to 43,424.
Tokyo Olympics to World
Tables of major events
- 8/5. U.S., Britain and Soviet Union sign Partial Test Ban Treaty.
- 8/28. Martin Luther King gives “I Have a Dream” speech.
- 11/23. 1st Japan-U.S. TV satellite relay reports President Kennedy’s assassination.
- 7/2. Civil Rights Act enacted in U.S.
- 10/1. Tokaido Shinkansen Line opens.
- 10/10~24. Tokyo Olympics. Special programming and airtime
- 10/16. China’s 1st A-bomb test a success during Olympics.
- 12/31. “Kouhaku Uta Gassen (Red & White Year-end Song Festival)” and “Yuku Toshi, Kuru Toshi (The Year Ending, The Year Coming)” aired on Radio Japan’s general service.
BROADCASTING NEWS FLASHES ON RESULTS AND INTERVIEWS WITH ATHLETES FOR 34 HOURS A DAY
Before the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics got underway, Radio Japan aired news on preparations for fields, stadiums and the Olympic Village, and introduced athletes. It aired the opening and closing ceremonies live, and extended airtime to broadcast ongoing competitions. As the first-ever Olympics reported via satellite TV relays, the games served to show Japan’s remarkable postwar recovery.
Even Before Tokyo Games Opened
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics was not just a sports event. It basically changed postwar Japan.
Before the Olympics, Radio Japan advertised the games to the world on two programs: “News on the Olympics” and “Olympic Jockey.” They featured preparations for fields, stadiums and the Olympic Village, and introduced hopeful athletes. They also offered information on hotels for foreign visitors, how to buy tickets, and so on.
NHK offered these based on surveys done in many countries in 1963. To meet listeners’ requests, it extended airtime during the games. For regional service, it aired in 21 languages for about 13 hours a day, and for general service, in Japanese and English for 20 hours. The opening and closing ceremonies and competitions were aired live. Radio Japan also broadcast news flashes on results and records, interviews with athletes and related stories.
Beefing up Transmission Systems
7/64. Ceremony for completion of 200 kW transmitting facility at Yamata Transmitting Station.
Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, the first to be telecast.
Preparing for the Olympics, NHK did all it could to optimize transmission. It began to broadcast at 200 kW in addition to its regular 100 kW. It also installed more 100 kW transmitters to increase frequencies. Reports of excellent reception came from not only neighboring Asian areas, Australia and New Zealand, but also North America and Latin America.
There were many reactions from overseas concerning Radio Japan’s Olympic broadcasts. Indonesia did not send a delegation to Tokyo, nor air any news on the games when they were underway. So for its people, Radio Japan was a precious source of information on the Olympics. Many listeners in the country say they began to listen to Radio Japan during the event.
First Olympics Televised via Satellite Relays
The Tokyo Games were the first Olympics to be televised with the use of communications satellites. This was made possible by the first Japan-U.S. satellite transmission done when President Kennedy was assassinated a year earlier. TV relay facilities and other technology were not yet fully ready. But with that experience, NHK went ahead with the world’s first Olympic telecast.
Covering the Tokyo Olympics
Radio Japan began broadcasting in Swahili in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics. I came to Japan from Kenya before the games, and found Japan filled with excitement. I covered this in news and other programs. I also had a chance to watch a race on the field. There were so many spectators that it looked as if all the people in Tokyo were there. Now, Kenya is famous for marathons. But our athletes then were good at short distances. I remember carrying a tape recorder around, gathering news. Then, I returned to the studio and went on the air.
I hope Radio Japan will continue to air sports events just as it did in those days.