A Rising Call for
Beaming Images AbroadNHK Begins Distributing Images to TV Japan in U.S.
CHRONICLE ＞ 1991–1994 ＞ A Rising Call for Beaming Images Abroad ｜ Law Revised to Start Overseas TV Broadcasting
Tables of major events
- 2/7. Treaty to establish EU signed.
- 4/1~12/14/1995. Civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 4/1. Deutsche Welle begins international TV broadcasting in English, German and Spanish.
- 5/15. Professional soccer J-League opens.
- 6/9. Crown Prince Naruhito gets married.
- 8/4. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono refers to plight of “comfort women.”
- 8/9. First non-LDP cabinet in 38 years, Hosokawa cabinet, launched.
- 8/15. PM Hosokawa talks about Japan’s war responsibility and expresses condolences to war dead and relatives in Asia.
- 5. African National Congress wins S. Africa general election.
- 6/27. Sarin gas attack in Matsumoto
- 6/30. Coalition of LDP, SDP and Sakigake launches Murayama cabinet.
- 7/8. Japan’s 1st female astronaut Chiaki Mukai goes to space aboard Space Shuttle.
- 10/13. Kenzaburo Oe wins Nobel Prize for Literature.
- 12/1. International TV broadcasting defined as NHK’s essential work (under revised Broadcast Law).
INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING SHIFTING FROM RADIO TO TELEVISION
On April 1, 1991, an overseas satellite channel, TV Japan, began broadcasting in Japanese on the U.S. West Coast. Most of its programs were from NHK’s news and other domestic programs. NHK began broadcasting bilingual news programs such as “TODAY’S JAPAN” in English for the main sound channel for domestic audiences. They were the forerunners of NHK’s current overseas TV broadcasting.
TV Japan Leading Way
6/9/93. Crown Prince and Princess Masako in their wedding parade, waving to crowds.
TV Japan began broadcasting in April ’91, for about 12 hours a day. Its program guide for July (1st issue).
“JAPAN BUSINESS TODAY,” sending business and economic information in English to the U.S. and Europe. Hosts are Linda Lucas and Dalton Tanonaka.
“ASIA NOW,” sending TV news about Asia to the world. Hosts are Jim Hartz and Hiroko Kuniya (BS1).
On April 1, 1991, TV Japan, a subscription-based satellite channel linked to NHK, began airing programs in Japanese on the U.S. West Coast.
It aired news, dramas and entertainment programs such as “Fun Fun Studio” for kids, “Kimi-no-nawa (What is Your Name?),” a sad love story of two people who met during a Tokyo air raid, and “Taihei-ki,” a history drama. Electric waves were sent from NHK’s Broadcasting Center to a communications satellite over the Pacific, then to one over the U.S., and directly to subscribers’ parabola antennas. Or they were relayed via cable television operators. The Broadcast Law then had no provisions for overseas television broadcasting, so NHK distributed its programs to a local subsidiary.
Expanding Bilingual Broadcasting
NHK began offering three multiplex-broadcasting news programs for domestic audiences in English for the main sound channel and in Japanese for the sub channel. “TODAY’s JAPAN,” “JAPAN BUSINESS TODAY” and “ASIA NOW” were also aired in the U.S. and other countries. They became the basis for NHK’s international TV programs.
Background of TV Japan
In March 1989, when Japan’s Diet was to vote on a budget for NHK, it adopted a resolution calling on the government and NHK to promote international exchange through the use of a visual medium.
Some factors were behind this. By the latter half of the 1980s, Radio Japan had achieved almost all its objectives by expanding its target areas and airtime. From fiscal 1987, some overseas TV broadcasters including BBC WORLD SERVICE began transmitting to the world using satellites. And when criticism or misunderstanding occurred concerning Japan over issues such as trade friction, Japan had no effective media to explain its position to the world and seek its understanding.
But under the Broadcast Law at that time, international broadcasting of images was no part of NHK’s work and international TV broadcasting required huge expenses compared to radio broadcasting. How could it be funded? High expectations for NHK and its legal and financial restraints led to the creation of TV Japan.
Law Revised to Start
Overseas TV Broadcasting
A NEW FRAMEWORK TO MAKE INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING MORE POWERFUL
Three years after the start of TV Japan, a bill to revise the Broadcast Law to open the way for NHK’s broadcasting of images abroad was submitted to the Diet. Revising the law would allow NHK to do television broadcasting directly to the world.
TV Japan’s Services in New York and London
JNG broadcasting on TV Japan (New York).
JSTV broadcasting TV programs from Japan (London).
5/15/93. Japan Professional Football League, J. League, kicks off in opening ceremony at National Stadium.
To broadcast its programs on TV Japan, NHK set up a subsidiary in New York and another in London. It paid for distribution charges and provided them with news and other programs for six to eight hours a day for fees.
NHK obtained government permission for this operation under Article 9 of the Broadcast Law, which defines such work as “necessary in view of progress in transmission and reception activities.”
In New York, 29 Japanese companies, including ITOCHU Corporation and MICO (International Media Corporation), funded and set up JNG (Japan Network Group). JNG began services for 11 hours and 15 minutes a day in April 1991.
In London, 38 companies, including Marubeni Corporation and MICO, invested in JSTV (Japan Satellite Television), which had been airing TV programs by Japanese commercial broadcasters for short time slots. In a way to inherit this business, in July 1991, JSTV, as a new entity, began broadcasting for 11 hours a day.
JSTV organized its programs by adding many NHK shows to its mainly Fuji TV programming. It distributed those programs, sent from Japan via satellites, directly to subscribing households using the Astra 1b satellite, which covered all of Europe.
TV Japan was a subscription-based channel. Almost all of its subscribers were Japanese. JNG and JSTV were operating using viewing fees of TV Japan, advertising charges and funds from Japanese companies. Until then, some broadcasting stations on the U.S. West Coast and in Hawaii were broadcasting Japanese programs, using VTRs from Japan.
But TV Japan was the first to use satellites and offer services for many hours. This was welcomed by Japanese abroad. It was seen as the starting point of full-fledged overseas broadcasting of images and led to the revision of the Broadcast Law in 1994.
Under Revised Law, NHK Entrusted to Do International Broadcasting
On June 3, 1994, three years after TV Japan was launched, a bill was introduced in the Diet to revise the Broadcast Law to establish a legal basis for international broadcasting of images. The bill passed the Lower House on June 8, and the Upper House on June 22. The revision was promulgated on June 29, and took effect in December.
The Revised Broadcast Law says Japan’s international TV broadcasting consists of two kinds: one done by NHK as its essential mission entrusted by the state, and the other done by commercial broadcasters if they are asked to by third parties. The law defines the role of NHK’s international broadcasting as making programs and transmitting them to be received overseas as they are. Commercial broadcasters can make programs that are received both in Japan and abroad, if asked by third parties. The law says all this should involve transmissions via stations operating artificial satellites. The law served as the legal framework for transmitting information by television from Japan.