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NHK logo
Launch date November 1950
Owner: Independent

NHK Broadcasting Center in Shibuya, Tokyo

NHK Museum

NHK Broadcasting Museum

NHK Osaka Broadcasting Station Bldg 20060604-001

NHK Osaka

NHK (日本放送協会 Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai?, official English name: Japan Broadcasting Corporation) is Japan's national public broadcasting organization.[1] NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials,[2] is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee.

NHK operates two terrestrial television services (NHK General TV and NHK Educational TV), two satellite television services (NHK BS-1 and NHK BS Premium, both now high-definition television services), and three radio networks (NHK Radio 1, NHK Radio 2, and NHK FM).

NHK also provides an international broadcasting service, known as NHK World. NHK World is composed of NHK World TV, NHK World Premium, and the shortwave radio service NHK World Radio Japan. World Radio Japan also makes some of its programs available on the internet.


NHK's earliest forerunner was the Tokyo Broadcasting Station (東京放送局?) founded in 1924 under the leadership of Count Gotō Shinpei. Tokyo Broadcasting Station, along with separate organizations in Osaka and Nagoya, began radio broadcasts in 1925. The three stations merged under the first incarnation of NHK in August 1926.[3] NHK was modelled on the BBC of the United Kingdom,[2] and the merger and reorganisation was carried out under the auspices of the pre-war Ministry of Communications.[4] NHK's second radio network began in 1931, and the third radio network (FM) began in 1937.

NHK began shortwave broadcasting on an experimental basis in the 1930s, and began regular English and Japanese-language shortwave broadcasts in 1935 under the name Radio Japan, initially aimed at ethnic Japanese listeners in Hawaii and the west coast of North America. By the late 1930s NHK's overseas broadcasts were known as Radio Tokyo, which became an official name in 1941.

In November 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army nationalised all public news agencies and coordinated their efforts via the Information Liaison Confidential Committee. [Citation needed] All published and broadcast news reports became official announcements of the Imperial Army General Headquarters in Tokyo for the duration of World War II. The famous Tokyo Rose wartime programs were broadcasts by NHK.[2] NHK also broadcast the Gyokuon-hōsō, the surrender speech made by Emperor Hirohito, in August 1945.

Following the war, in September 1945, the Allied occupation administration under General Douglas MacArthur banned all international broadcasting by NHK, and repurposed several NHK facilities and frequencies for use by the Far East Network (now American Forces Network). Japanese-American radio broadcaster Frank Shozo Baba joined NHK during this time and led an early postwar revamp of its programming. Radio Japan resumed overseas broadcasts in 1952.

A new Broadcasting Act ("Hōsō Hō") was enacted in 1950, which made NHK a listener-supported independent corporation and simultaneously opened the market for commercial broadcasting in Japan.[5] NHK started television broadcasting in the same year, followed by its Educational TV channel in 1959 and color television broadcasts in 1960.

NHK opened the first stage of its current headquarters in Shibuya, Tokyo as an international broadcasting center for the 1964 Summer Olympics, the first widely-televised Olympic Games. The complex was gradually expanded through 1973, when it became the headquarters for NHK. The previous headquarters adjacent to Hibiya Park was redeveloped as the Hibiya City high-rise complex.

NHK began satellite broadcasting on the NHK BS 1 channel in 1984, followed by NHK BS 2 in 1985.[6] Satellite broadcasts to North America and Europe began in 1995, which led to the launch of NHK World TV in 1998. It became free-to-air over the Astra 19.2°E (Astra 1L) and Eurobird satellites in Europe in 2008.[7] In April 2011, the BS 2 channel was re-branded as "BS Premium."

NHK began digital television broadcasting in December 2000 on the BS Digital (BShi) station, followed by terrestrial digital TV broadcasts in three major metropolitan areas in 2003. Its digital television coverage gradually expanded to cover almost all of Japan by July 2011, when analog transmissions were discontinued (except in certain areas affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami).


NHK is an independent corporation chartered by the Japanese Broadcasting Act and primarily funded by license fees. NHK World broadcasting (for overseas viewers/listeners) is funded by the Japanese government. The annual budget of NHK is subject to review and approval by the Diet of Japan. The Diet also appoints the 12-member Board of Governors (経営委員会 keiei iinkai) that oversees NHK.

NHK is managed on a full-time basis by an Executive Board (理事会 rijikai) consisting of a President, Vice President and seven to ten Managing Directors who oversee various areas of NHK operations. The Executive Board reports to the Board of Governors.

License fee

NHK is funded by reception fees (受信料 jushinryō?), a system analogous to the license fee employed in some English-speaking countries. The Broadcast Law which governs NHK’s funding stipulates that any television equipped to receive NHK is required to pay. The fee is standardized,[8] with discounts for office workers and students who commute, as well a general discount for residents of Okinawa prefecture. For viewers making annual payments by credit card with no other special discounts, the reception fee is 13,600 yen per year for terrestrial reception only, and 24,090 yen per year for both terrestrial and broadcast satellite reception.[9]

However, the Broadcast Law lists no punitive actions for nonpayment; as a result of this, after a rash of NHK-related scandals, the number of people who had not paid the license fee surpassed one million users.[Citation needed] This incident sparked debate over the fairness of the fee system.[10] In 2006, the NHK opted to take legal action against those most flagrantly in violation of the law.[11]

NHK domestic broadcasting stations

TV programming

NHK General TV broadcasts a variety of programming. The following are noteworthy:


Local, national, and world news reports. NHK News 7 offers bilingual broadcasts on NHK General TV, NHK World TV and NHK World Premium. Its current flagship news program is News Watch 9, also broadcast throughout the whole NHK network. NHK also offers news for the deaf, regional news and children’s news. News Today 30 Minutes is the new name of NHK NEWSWATCH which ran for 6 years. It is an English newscast designed for foreign viewers. On 2 February 2009, NHK World TV changed and the flagship newscast, Newsline, also changed and is currently the flagship newscast on NHK and NHK World TV.

In his book 'Broadcasting politics in Japan:NHK and television news', ES Krauss states:' in the 1960s and 1970s, external critics of NHK news were complaining about the strict neutrality, the lack of criticism of government, and the 'self-regulation in covering events' ' Krauss claims that little had changed by the 1980s and 1990s.[12] After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 NHK was criticised for underplaying the dangers from radioactive contamination.[2][13]

Emergency reporting

Under the Broadcast Act, NHK is under the obligation to broadcast early warning emergency reporting in times of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Their national network of seismometers in cooperation with the Japan Meteorological Agency makes NHK capable of delivering the news in just 2–3 minutes after the quake. They also broadcast air attack warnings in the event of war, using the J-Alert system.[14] All warnings are broadcast in five languages: English, Mandarin, Korean and Portuguese (Japan has small Chinese, Korean and Brazilian populations), as well as Japanese. The warnings were broadcast in these languages during the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


Education programs are watched nation-wide at primary schools. Tensai Terebikun MAX (better known as TTK) is a show combining a small amount of education with entertainment. TTK is currently hosted by the Yasuda Big Circus, Maki Nishiyama and a cast of 24 children ranging from ages 8 to 14.


Weather in detail, nationwide, and international for travellers.


NHK broadcasts the six annual Grand Sumo tournaments (having done so since the 1953 Natsu Basho), high-school baseball championships from Koshien Stadium, Olympic Games (under the Japan Consortium), National Sports Festival of Japan, and a range of other sports. NHK also broadcasts Boston Red Sox games when Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches. NHK also holds rights to broadcast the FA Premier League in Japan.[15]

News analysis

The network carries in-depth reports on current topics, political debate, and similar programming.


The annual Kōhaku Uta Gassen on New Year’s Eve is the highlight. The weekly schedule includes an amateur hour, and prime-time shows for all ages. Music Japan is shown each week with brand new Japanese pop, and rock acts.

J-Melo is NHK’s first music program to be recorded entirely in English for international consumption.

The NHK Symphony Orchestra, financially sponsored by NHK, was formerly (until 1951) the Japanese Symphony Orchestra. Its website details the orchestra's history and ongoing concert programme.[16]


A sentimental morning show, a weekly jidaigeki and a year-long show, the ’’Taiga drama’’, spearhead the network’s fiction offerings. NHK is also making efforts to broadcasting the drama made in foreign countries as "Overseas Drama (海外ドラマ Kaigai Dorama?)".


NHK has become known for its documentary series, first for the popular mini-series Legacy for the Future, and later for the NHK Tokushu (later known as NHK Special) [17] documentaries series such as The Silk Road and The 20th Century on Film (映像の世紀 Eizō no Seiki?).


The longest running children’s show in Japan, {{Nihongo3|With Mother|おかあさんといっしょ|Okaasan to Issho|1959 Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.

  1. The Flame and the Cross—The South Caucasus
  2. The Progeny of the Queen of Sheba—Yemen and Saudi Arabia
  3. Steep Road to the Oasis—Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
  4. From Wasteland to Motherland—Central Asia
  5. Echoes of Distant Prayers—Syria and Lebanon

Launched in 1980, NHK's renowned Silk Road series was the first foreign TV program allowed to film Silk Road inside communist China. The series sparked enormous interest. A quarter of a century later, NHK re-visits Silk Road with high-definition cameras. The first half of the journey is to Loolan, Tibet, Taklamakan Desert and Xian. The trip then continues from former Soviet Central Asia to the Middle East and Turkey. With its swirling mix of ethnic identities, this region is now carving out a new period of history led by the resurgence of Islam. NHK provides a new look at this modern-day Silk Road giving you a clear view of the regions' momentous changes.

  • The Flame and the Cross—The South Caucasus
1 x 49 min.
English script

Surrounded by 5,000-meter high mountains, the South Caucasus was a strategic point tying together all directions of the Silk Road. Home to 50 ethnic groups, the region is a cultural treasure trove of unique ethnic music, religious architecture, wines, and so on. It has also been invaded by the Roman, Mongol, and Ottoman empires. Wars still rage even now, and over one million people have become refugees. The region is truly representative of both the blessings and the historical calamities brought on by the Silk Road. This leg of the journey will take you to three countries—Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia—countries that have long fostered unique cultures tempered by the flames of war.

  • The Progeny of the Queen of Sheba—Yemen and Saudi Arabia
1 x 49 min.
English script

With the end of the civil war, the people of Yemen are now building a new country. The remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, or Bilqs, are being excavated as a way of regaining Yemeni ethnic pride. North of Yemen lies the current oil kingdom, Saudi Arabia. Until 50 years ago, half of the Saudi people led nomadic lives. With the sharp rises in oil prices, people in Saudi Arabia gained enormous wealth, and as a result, the historical character of their cities began to change its shape. The tale of rise and fall transcending time and space echoes through the 1,500-kilometer journey across the Arabian Peninsula.

  • Steep Road to the Oasis—Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
1 x 49 min.
English script

The next destination is the countries in Central Asia. A visitto a new city that has emerged near the border between Kyrgyzstan and China. The city shows rapid growth due to the huge influx of Chinese goods. Heading west, we will see the cotton fields spread out across a huge oasis in Uzbekistan. We also explore the beautiful, white-bricked city of Bukhara, which still maintains an atmosphere of the Middle Ages. In one of the city's narrow streets, Uzbekis, Russians, Jews, and others live together side-by-side in harmony. Visit these people who live to the fullest amidst the uncertainties after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

  • From Wasteland to Motherland—Central Asia
1 x 49 min.
English script

From Kazakhstan, this episode cuts through the steppe regions of Central Asia to Russia and the Ukraine. We meet ethnic Kazakhs in China seeking to return to their homeland and displaced Chechens deciding whether to return to their war-torn homeland or stay where it is peaceful. And Cossacks, many of whom are now reviving their proud heritage of military service in Imperial Russia, asserting themselves as bastions of support for the Putin government. As we continue our journey through Central Asia, we listen to the songs and stories of these people who are longing to return to the homelands of their distant memories.

  • Echoes of Distant Prayers—Syria and Lebanon
1 x 49 min.
English script

Syria and Lebanon are the "last 100km" of the Silk Road. This area is also where various religions coexist. Here are found a hidden village where Christianity has been protected for 2,000 years, a temple of the Roman Empire, a Shiite holy city, and Christian Maronites who have continued to treasure the legendary Lebanon cedar. However, this area is also plagued by endless wars. The voices of prayers for peace are heard as we wonder if those of a family who's lost a son amid the confrontations can appease the continuous conflicts.

Criticism and controversies

NHK has faced various accusations regarding many topics including its treatment of Japan's wartime history.

2014 NHK crisis over Comfort Women in World War Two

Katsuto Momii (籾井勝人), 21st Head of NHK, caused controversy [18][19] by discussing Japan's actions in the Second World War at his first news conference after being appointed on the 20th December 2013. It was reported that Momii said that NHK should support the Japanese government in its territorial dispute with China and South Korea.[20] He also caused controversy by playing down the issue of the enforced sexual slavery of the so-called comfort women by the Japanese military in World War Two by, according to the Taipei Times stating "“[South] Korea’s statements that Japan is the only nation that forced this are puzzling. ‘Give us money, compensate us,’ they say, but since all of this was resolved by the Japan-Korea peace treaty, why are they reviving this issue? It’s strange.” . It was subsequently reported by the Japan Times that on his first day at NHK Momii asked members of the executive team to hand in their resignation on the grounds that they had all been appointed by his predecessor.[21]

At the end of April 2014, a number of Civil Society groups protested at Katsuto Momii's continuing tenure as Director General of NHK [22] One of the groups, NHKを監視・激励する視聴者コミュニティ or Viewers' Community to Observe and Encourage NHK issued a public letter asking for the resignation of Momii on the grounds that the remarks he made at his inaugural press conference were explosive. The letter states that if Momii does not resign by the end of April that its members would freeze their payments of the licence fee for a period of half a year.

2014 World War II documentary controversy

Aired on NHK WORLD in February 2014, this documentary implied that Japan was duped into entering into war with the United States of America due to, simply, faulty intelligence and the work of spies. The NHK documentary goes to lengths to describe how Churchill, through the use of military intelligence, apparently manipulated the US government, and implied that Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent war with the US could have been avoided—but for the misinterpretation and manipulation of intelligence gathered against the Japanese military. The NHK program completely fails to mention Japan's then current multiple wars of aggression in Asia, its alliance with Nazi Germany, and its egregious humanitarian and human rights abuses.

See also


Additional sources

External links


  1. NHK: Profile
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sidensticker, Edward. (1990). ’‘Tokyo Rising: The City Since the Great Earthquake,’’ p. 67.
  10. IHT/Asahi: February 24, 2005
  11. Summary of Press Conference (November 2006): On the demanding of fee payment through legal proceedings
  12. Ellis S Krauss Broadcasting politics in Japan: NHK and television news Cornell University Press 2000 pp39-40
  13. [1], accessed 5th Jan 2012
  14. Corkill, Edan, "Planning pays off as NHK takes its quake news global", Japan Times, 20 March 2011, p. 9.

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