40. Nippon Hoso Kyokai
Revenues 2020: JPY 716.400 billion (€ 5.880 billion)
NHK Hoso Center, 2-2-1 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8001, Japan
Phone: 0081-3- 3465-1111
Branches: Television, radio, book and magazine publishing
Legal form: non-profit company, governed by public law
Financial year: 04/01 - 03/31
Founding year: 1926
Executives and Directors
Management/Board of Directors:
- Ryoichi Ueda, President
- Hikaru Doumoto, Executive Vice President
- Yukinori Kida, Executive Director of Broadcasting
- Tadanobu Sakamoto, Executive Director
- Akihiko Chigono, Executive Director
- Yoshinori Nemoto, Senior Director
- Youichi Matsubara, Senior Director
- Hiroshi Araki, Senior Director
- Noriyuki Ogi, Senior Director
- Ichizou Oohashi, Senior Director
- Yasuhiro Kan, Senior Director
- Hiroyuki Nakata, Senior Director
The Japanese age of broadcasting commenced on the 22nd of March 1925, when the radio station Tokyo (Tokyo Hoso Kyoku) transmitted its first radio program. In June and July, the first radio stations in Osaka and Nagoya followed on the foot. On the 20th of August 1926, the three regional stations merged and became 'Shadan Hojin Nippon Hoso Kyokai' (Public Utility broadcasting network of Japan), NHK for short. Up until 1950, NHK held the national monopoly for public broadcasting as well as abroad from the 1st of June 1935. In 1928, the NHK studio in Osaka launched a gymnastics program, which was adopted into the nationwide program and remains a Japanese institution to this day – 'Radio Taiso': In many schools, factories and other parts of Japan, the day begins with the NHK morning gymnastics. Since 1928, weather reports and time checks have been part of the broadcast. In 1931, a second program was established to provide educational radio services and school radio has been on air since 1935. Ever since, the first program has been focussing on news, commentary, stock market reports, sports coverage and entertainment programs. Later on, the NHK became the main instrument for the distribution of war propaganda and perseverance paroles. That phase ended with the transmission of the capitulation address by the emperor on the 15th of August 1945, which was incidentally the first time ever that the voice of the Tenno could be heard to most Japanese people.
Now, the American occupational forces took control over the public stations. In 1950, the radio and broadcasting bureau was ensnared and secured by means of a new legal basis: The radio & broadcasting law made away with the NHK monopoly and allowed to creation of private stations. On the 1st of June 1950, NHK – retaining its old name – constituted itself in its present-day legal form as a charitable public radio station. Instead of governmental control, the parliament would now have to validate the board of directors (as appointed by the prime minister) as well as agree on the annual budget; the board of directors appoints the NHK from its midst.
In 1953, NHK starts to transmit its television signal, slowly shifting to colour from 1960 onwards. In 1959, NHK established an educational channel on top of its general interest program. Since October 1971, the general interest program is transmitted in full colour, followed by the educational program in 1977. In 1982, the transition of specific television programs to stereo commenced (music programs) as well as bilingualism: Some news programs, discussion programs or foreign films can now be watched in Japanese, English or the respective non-English original English on the push of a button. Since 1984, households could receive two satellite programs of NHK with a satellite dishes (two programs from 1986). As far as foreign programs are concerned, the viewers can choose between the original language and the Japanese translations and this way, even the ZDF news programs „heute“ and the „Tagesschau“ find their way into Japanese living rooms. Since 1991, NHK broadcasts in the self-developed 'Hi-Vision' technology of HD television for several hours; although these programs can only be received on devices that are capable of receiving this form or particular program.
By now, 90 percent of the general interest programs are transmitted in this format and the whole program is scheduled to become full digital HD before the end of 2011. It is planned that the analogue transmission of television will be shut down for good in 2015.
Only recently, NHK announced that it is planning to transmit its program in an even higher resolution, beginning in 2010. In 1995, NHK commences its television broadcasting in America and Europe, followed by the Asian-Pacific region in 1998. Five satellites covers almost the entire world. The Japanese-language offers was extended to 24 hours a day in 1999, yet the nature of the English-language offer still varied from region to region. Since February 2009, NHK has been transmitting a 24-hour English-language program. The program scan be received via exclusive antennas either direct or via local cable television providers against a small fee.
Since December 2008, NHK offers a 'NHK-on-demand' program. Programs that were already broadcasted can now be received via TV and Internet in hindsight against an additional fee. This offer includes the comprehensive NHK archive and its 516.000 entries.
The crisis of the last few years still resonates in the image of NHK and leaves behind a negative after-taste as far as the public image is concerned.
First, the fee boycott expanded to 1,12 million households by the end of 2006, but could be reduced by half according to a statement by NHK. In addition, the governing bodies evaluate to possibility of agreeing on a law that would make non-payers of radio & television fees liable in a court of law. However, following ongoing public debate, this scheme has been postponed to a date yet to be defined.
Since 2008, a law has been in the making that would allow future governments to influence content to a higher degree. NHK had already been the target of critics when leading politicians enforced the censorship of a documentary program. By now, NHK has been sentenced to pay a fee for this incident by the highest court in Tokyo.
In 2012, the license fee will decrease by 120 Yen (1.15 €) per month due to increasing digital distribution of content. The decrease is the first since 1968.
As far as economic power of public broadcasters are concerned, NHK competes for the top position with the German ZDF, albeit with only half the number of staff and an inland market share that is twice as hight (about 30%, the same as ARD and ZDF combined). Unlike the German public broadcasting institutions, the whole NHK program is devoid of any form of advertising. NHK also does not have to compete with the private stations – which are organised into five networks on a national level. NHK takes its position within the society (as defined by the law) very serious and diligently tries to represent the interest of the main body of Japanese people.
Regular questionnaires deliver a necessary indication thereof. Foreign correspondents takes a back seat within that context at least as far as the general interest programs are concerned, unless there is an apparent direct bearing on Japanese affairs. When it comes to political hot topics, the perspectives and views of all parties (that are represented in parliament) are reflected, more or less elaborate depending on the size. In discussion rounds with party politicians, it is made sure that all participants can have as much say as the size of their party determines. By the way, NHK does not shy away from questioning the position of the ruling government at any given time, especially when superior interests seem to be in jeopardy of neglect: Hence, the station presents the research results of a professor during the evening news, according to which Japan's army had been involved in the forced recruitment of young women from neighbouring Asian countries to serve in Japanese military brothers after all – a fact that had been denied by the government up to that point. In recent times, NHK oftentimes had to yield to the pressure of politicians and allow changes to be made in its programs.
When it came to question of environmental policies, NHK had frequently disproved the defensive arguments of careless institution and industrial companies. Whenever the rights and interest of consumers are in peril, NHK does not hesitate to point out the misgivings of Japanese products when compared to foreign products. A particular NHK documentary about traffic security became particularly famous, in which Japanese car models fared far worse than its German counterparts. Programs with a broad audience appeal take precedence over special interest programs. Whenever there happens to be an overtime during popular sports broadcasts, news and other information programs are postponed of cancelled altogether. NHK understands itself to be a protector of Japanese traditions of all kind. Some traditional arts are still alive only doe to the support of public broadcasting. By means of elaborately produced historical drama programs that run each Sunday evening over the whole year, NHK tells the Japanese audience of its own history.
As an organisation, NHK is centralised. The two main research institutions for broadcasting technologies and culture were built in Tokyo, the main location of the station. Outside of Tokyo, NHK operates 53 in-house studios, at least one in each province. In foreign territory, NHK is represented with four main studios in the States (New York), Europe (Paris), Asia (Bangkok) and China (Beijing) as well as 30 studios and correspondents' offices. Apart from the board of directors, a bunch of advisory councils make sure that NHK adheres to all legal imposts and constraints. One central and eight regional program councils made up of up to twenty members from all walks of like overlook and ensure the balance and impartiality of the programs. Unlike the ARD and ZDF , the NHK councils are not filled with politicians and party members.
NHK broadcasts five television and three radio programs in Japan. Television: The General Interest program (Soho Hoso) and the educational channel (Kyoiku Hoso), the two satellite programs BS1 and BS2 as well as the HD satellite program. The radio division is also categorised in a general interest program (Daiichi Hoso / Radio 1) and educational radio (Daini Hoso / Radio 2). Radio 2 also broadcasts news in English, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese for foreigners living in Japan. The whole range ins completed by the UKW program (FM Hoso).
NHK has to shut down two of its television channels and the UKW channel before the end of 2011. In foreign territory, NHK broadcasts radio in 22 languages, including German („Radio Japan“). . As In October 2007, four of these language-specific broadcasts were cancelled and the broadcast time shortened. Television programs are transmitted via satellite and can be received via exclusive antenna („NHK World TV“) or a local provider of cable television („NHK World Premium“).
In 2008, NHK founded the Japan International Broadcasting subsidiary, which has been broadcasting an English-language program since the 1st of September 2008. As of April 2009, the program is extended to 24 hours per day. The aim of the coverage is to provide a comprehensive portray of Japan and the Asian regions
NHK has outsourced parts of its activities into subsidiaries: NHK Service Center 100%, NHK International 100%, NHK Engineering Service 100%, NHK Hoso Kenshu Center (NHK broadcasting training centre) 100%, Nippon Hoso Kyokai Gakuen (NHK-Distance learning) 100%, NHK Kokyo Gakudan (NHK-Symphonie Orchestra) 100%, NHK Kosei Bunka Jigyodan (Special programs for the disabled and senior citizens) 100%. A further 15 NHK - subsidiaries are responsible for program planning and production as well as distribution of NHK products.
Activities in Europe
NHK is an extraordinary member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), operates television studios in London, Paris, Berlin and Moscow as well correspondents' offices in Brussels. The Berlin office employs a total of five staff. From there, the coverage from Germany, Austria, East and South Eastern Europe, including the Balkan territories is maintained. The NHK satellite channel BS1 broadcasts regular news programs by the European channels ZDF, ARD, BBC, ITN, F2, RTR and TVE . Until 2000, NHK was part of a personnel cooperation with the Deutsche Welle, which had to be cancelled as a result of a savings program on behalf of the German side.
NHK plans to massively extend its activities on the foreign market. Ever since early 2009, a privately financed subsidiary broadcasts a plethora of programs about Japan via the Internet and satellite. The 24-program is available in English and freely receivable since February 2009. Sine 2009, NHK distributes its worldwide content in HD quality via Intelsat.
- Susan J. Pharr/Ellis S. Krauss (Ed.), Media and Politics in Japan, 1996.
- Ellis S. Krauss, Broadcasting Politics in Japan: NHK Television News, 2000.