NHK to launch global 24-hour news channel

by Mariko Kato

NHK will launch Japan’s first 24-hour international broadcasting service on Feb. 2.

NHK World TV will provide international news in English, with a focus on Japan and Asia. It will be available in some 70 countries and regions via satellite, cable TV and the Internet.

“We aim to reach 110 million households around the world by March,” NHK Vice President Yoshinori Imai said Wednesday.

Yoshinori said NHK will “join the ranks of CNN International and BBC World Service” with this new channel and hopes to “earn a reputation for strong coverage of Japan and Asia news.”

In addition to 30-minute news bulletins every hour, NHK World TV will run features and documentaries — some made for the service and others translated from existing NHK shows — covering business, culture and other aspects of Japan.

In a twist, some of the original programs will be produced by major commercial television networks, according to Hatsuhisa Takashima, CEO and president of Japan International Broadcasting Inc., the NHK subsidiary that will handle distribution of the new channel. These programs will run with commercials alongside NHK’s noncommercial shows.

“We want the networks to compete with each other to create better programs, to allow world viewers to understand Japan better,” Takashima said. “We believe that the TV commercials themselves will show today’s Japan to the world.”

The service will not be available to viewers in Japan, partly due to broadcasting laws, but Takashima said he hoped this would change in “the not-too-distant future” because there have been many inquiries about the channel from foreign residents and Japanese who are studying English.