The Birth of “NEWSLINE”
CHRONICLE ＞ 2000–2004 ＞ The Birth of “NEWSLINE” ｜ Radio Japan Begins Live Streaming of News in 22 Languages
Tables of major events
- 2/4. Radio Japan begins live streaming in 22 languages.
- 7/21~23. Kyushu-Okinawa G8 Summit
- 9/25. China’s state-run CCTV begins overseas broadcasting in English.
- 9. Radio Japan Online begins.
- Radio Japan offers Japanese lessons in 18 languages.
- 9/11. Terrorist attacks in U.S.
- Ichiro boom in U.S. Major Leagues
- 4. NHK WORLD Daily News site opens.
- 5/31~6/30. Japan and South Korea jointly host FIFA World Cup.
- 9/17. Japan-North Korea summit. “Pyongyang Declaration” signed.
- 10/15. Five abductees return from NK.
- 3/20. Iraq War
- 3/19~5/19. Radio Japan airs emergency broadcasting to Middle East and North Africa (in Japanese).
- 8/4~16. Radio Japan airs drama “Tooi and Masato” in all its 22 languages for 1st time.
- 1. Bird flu spreads.
- 5/22. 2nd Japan-North Korea summit
- 8. South Korea’s public Arirang TV begins broadcasting in English to world.
- 10/23. Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake
- 12/26. Tsunami in Indian Ocean
THE CORE OF NHK’S 24-HOUR ENGLISH NEWS
In April 2000, a TV news program in English for overseas, “NEWSLINE,” went on the air. This became the core of NHK’s 24-hour all-English news channel in 2009. It had two 10-minute slots during the day on weekdays.
The Start of “NEWSLINE”
2003. English news program from Japan “WHAT’S ON JAPAN” with Minori Takao and Michio Kijima.
9.11 terrorist attacks on U.S. World Trade Center. Buildings spewing black smoke.
On April 3, 2000, “NEWSLINE” began airing. It reported live, in a compact ten-minute slot at 2 p.m., news from that morning. The same news was rebroadcast at 6 p.m. At first, the program aired only on weekdays.
In April 2001, “NEWSLINE” in the evening got a new edition and began to be broadcast live. So, the afternoon edition was called “NEWSLINE2” and the evening edition “NEWSLINE6.”
Increased to 8 Slots a Day
In April 2003, the slots for the program increased from two to four a day. The 10-minute program was aired at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Japan time). In April 2004, this increased to eight slots a day. Five of them were live – those at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The remaining three, at 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 2 a.m., were repeats of the live broadcasts closest to their slots.
9.11 Terrorist Attacks in the U.S.
On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred in New York City. All media in the U.S. repeatedly broadcast images so shocking they seemed like scenes from movies. Company employees and travelers from Japan and Japanese residents in the U.S. depended on the latest information aired in Japanese. JNG, which airs TV Japan’s channel in North America, continued to broadcast NHK news. JNG’s studio was just 500 meters from the site of the attacks. After receiving evacuation orders, its staff secured emergency circuits so that broadcasting could continue without people. In this way, they supported NHK’s emergency reports in the U.S. Many messages were sent in from viewers: “We are not good at English, but we were able to understand the background and political and world situations in Japanese,” and “NHK promptly reported what happened in the U.S., and we could watch it in Canada. We were surprised at how fast and accurately information was reported.”
Reporting on 9.11 Terrorist Attacks
On September 11, 2001, the day of the attacks, the international broadcasting unit’s English Center in charge of making English scripts for “News 10” was in for a shock.
Ten minutes before the start of “News 10,” the News Center told the English Center that the news order might change. An editor rushed to the News Center and was told one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire. In those days, the bilingual team for “News 10” had two announcers who read scripts in English and two simultaneous interpreters who would deal with news flashes. When there were no flashes, the interpreters had nothing to do.
From the start, it was really the interpreters’ night. Three minutes after the broadcast began, the second plane plunged into the second tower. Everybody realized it was not an accident; it was an attack.
After this, two interpreters did all the work until the extended news broadcast ended at one a.m. The desk editors said to themselves, “This is going to be a long day.” And they began looking for extra interpreters for various news programs and “News 10” later on the day.
Radio Japan Begins
Live Streaming of
News in 22 Languages
EMERGENCY LIFELINE BECOMES INFORMATION SOURCE DURING PEACETIME
NHK WORLD’s Internet service began in the latter half of the 1990s. In February 2000, live streaming of news on Radio Japan began in 22 languages. In April 2002, NHK WORLD Daily News opened on the web, offering English news scripts and video clips. The number of languages offered in this service gradually increased.
Radio Japan’s News for Live Streaming
International broadcasting advanced onto the Internet in the latter half of the 1990s. NHK WORLD first opened a PR site, introducing programs and frequencies. In February 2000, it started Radio Japan Online to offer live streaming of Radio Japan’s news in 22 languages, as it aired. This was done to see if the Internet could be used to supplement shortwave broadcasts. In September, a new service was added to enable net users to replay Radio Japan’s news on demand. This was a prototype of what has become a main Internet service. The year 2000 marked the 65th anniversary of the start of NHK’s international broadcasting. NHK opened a commemorative website called A Dream Site. It offered news scripts in many languages and video clips from NHK WORLD TV. All these experimental services opened the way for the future.
News Scripts Offered on NHK WORLD Daily News
In March 2002, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced guidelines for NHK’s use of the Internet. It was defined as business pertaining to broadcasting. This made it easier for NHK to use the Internet.
In April 2002, NHK started its news website, NHK WORLD Daily News. It offered, on demand, English news scripts broadcast by NHK WORLD TV, and related video clips. The government guidelines made possible such use of news scripts as secondary materials of NHK’s broadcasting. By the end of March 2003, Radio Japan’s news scripts in Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese and Korean were also uploaded.
Intensifying International Situations Led to More Access
In April 2001, about 60,000 users accessed the live streaming and on-demand services of Radio Japan Online. In March of the next year, this increased to 250,000, and in March 2003, to 520,000. This was an increase of more than eight times in two years. Especially after the 9.11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. in September 2001 and the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, access increased sharply from the previous months. At such times, NHK set up special news slots on Radio 1 and uploaded its news for live streaming. This is believed to have contributed to increased use by Japanese in and out of Japan. The level of access did not drop after the special news slots were closed, indicating that the emergency lifeline had become an information source in peacetime.
Making Homepages on Our Own
On NHK WORLD’s current websites, almost everything is done automatically, including switching of content. But in those days, it all had to be done manually.
On the NHK WORLD Daily News site, four temporary workers continued to renew content manually. For Radio Japan Online, about 30 student part-timers worked in shifts uploading radio news scripts in many foreign languages.Nowadays, all these are handled by outside experts. But in those days, NHK employees who had no particular expertise in information technology managed to set up and run those websites.
The system was not without problems. During exam periods, many students were unable to come, making daily work difficult. Some staff members tried to open a homepage based on technical guide books, but didn’t know what to do if they hit snags. When a fully automatic system was introduced to handle demand, they were impressed by the amazing technological advances.
As automation progressed, part-time workers were no longer needed. Now, NHK WORLD’s internet services are run by professionals. But those were happy days when young people took on the challenge of building a future with their own hands.