NHK (Japanese: 日本放送協会 Hepburn: Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, official English name: Japan Broadcasting Corporation) is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, 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 Radio Japan (RJ). World Radio Japan also makes some of its programs available on the Internet.
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 the areas of NHK operations. The Executive Board reports to the Board of Governors.
NHK is funded by reception fees (受信料 jushinryō), a system analogous to the license fee used in some English-speaking countries. The Broadcast Law which governs NHK’s funding stipulates any television equipped to receive NHK is required to pay. The fee is standardized, 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.
However, the Broadcast Law lists no punitive actions for nonpayment; as a result, after a rash of NHK-related scandals, the number of people who had not paid the license fee surpassed one million users. This incident sparked debate over the fairness of the fee system. In 2006, the NHK opted to take legal action against those most flagrantly in violation of the law.
NHK General TV broadcasts a variety of programming. The following are noteworthy:
NHK offers local, national, and world news reports. NHK News 7 which airs daily is broadcast bilingually in both Japanese and English audio tracks on NHK General TV and NHK's international channels TV Japan and NHK World Premium. The flagship news program News Watch 9 is also bilingual and also air on NHK General TV and NHK's international channels TV Japan and NHK World Premium. World news are aired on NHK BS 1 with Catch! Sekai no Jiten in the morning and International News Report at night with the latter airing on NHK World Premium. News on NHK BS 1 are aired at 50 minutes past the hour except during live sport events.
NHK also offers news for the deaf (which airs on NHK Educational TV), regional news (which airs on NHK General TV) and children’s news. Newsline is an English newscast designed for foreign viewers and airs on NHK World.
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. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 NHK was criticised for underplaying the dangers from radioactive contamination.
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. 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.
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, the FIFA World Cup (both the Olympics and the World Cup are under the Japan Consortium), National Sports Festival of Japan, and a range of other sports. NHK also broadcasts MLB games, especially those involving Japanese players. NHK also holds rights to broadcast the FA Premier League in Japan. It did also cover the NBA, but now covers the B.League instead.
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. Since 1953, NHK has broadcast the Kōhaku Uta Gassen song contest on New Year's Eve, ending shortly before Midnight.
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 at broadcasting dramas made in foreign countries as "Overseas Drama (海外ドラマ Kaigai Dorama)".
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. NHK was modelled on the BBC of the United Kingdom, and the merger and reorganisation was carried out under the auspices of the pre-war Ministry of Communications. 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. 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. 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 post-war 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. 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 the special ward of Japan's capital city Shibuya 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 with the NHK BS 1 channel in 1984, followed by NHK BS 2 in 1985. Both channels began regular broadcasts in 1989. In April 2011, BS 1 was rebranded while BS 2 channel ceased broadcasting and was replaced by "BS Premium" which broadcasts on the channel formerly used by BShi. Both channels currently air in HD.
International satellite broadcasts to North America and Europe began in 1995, which led to the launch of NHK World in 1998. It became free-to-air over the Astra 19.2°E (Astra 1L) and Eurobird satellites in Europe in 2008.
NHK began digital television broadcasting in December 2000 through BS Digital, 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 where it was discontinued in 2012).
From 1963 to 1999 NHK published Studies of broadcasting: an international annual of broadcasting science.
In February 2017, a male reporter who belonged to NHK was arrested over an alleged sexual attack against a woman, and in March a fresh arrest warrant that was related to a similar crime was issued. In response to this, NHK said that it apologised again to the victims and its customers.
In 2007, three employees of NHK were fined and fired for insider trading. They had profited by trading shares based on exclusive NHK knowledge.
On 11 July 2008, NHK introduced a ban prohibiting stock trading by employees, numbering around 5,700, who had access to its internal news information management system. The employees were required to pledge in writing that they would not trade in stocks, and were required to gain approval from senior staff in order to sell shares they already held. NHK banned short-term stock trading completed in periods of six months or less for all other employees.
The ban did not extend to employees' families, nor did NHK request any reports on their transactions.
NHK has occasionally faced various criticisms for its treatment of Japan's wartime history.
Katsuto Momii (籾井勝人), 21st head of NHK, caused controversy by discussing Japan's actions in the Second World War at his first news conference after being appointed on 20 December 2013. It was reported Momii said NHK should support the Japanese government in its territorial dispute with China and South Korea. 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 they had all been appointed by his predecessor.
At the end of April 2014, a number of Civil Society groups protested at Katsuto Momii's continuing tenure as Director General of NHK. One of the groups, the Viewers' Community to Observe and Encourage NHK (NHKを監視・激励する視聴者コミュニティ), issued a public letter asking for the resignation of Momii on the grounds the remarks he made at his inaugural press conference were explosive. The letter states if Momii does not resign by the end of April that its members would freeze their payments of the licence fee for half a year.
On 17 October 2014, The Times claimed to have received internal NHK documents which banned any reference to the Rape of Nanking, to Japan's use of wartime sex slaves during World War Two, and to its territorial dispute with China in its English-language broadcasting.
On 24 July 2013, a reporter at NHK Metropolitan Broadcasting Center died of congestive heart failure. In May 2014 Shibuya Labor Standards Inspection Office of the Tokyo Labor Bureau certified it as a karōshi (overwork death). Although NHK did not report on this matter, it was announced in October 2017. Ryoichi Ueda, the chairman of NHK, visited the reporter's parents' home and apologized to them.
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