Staff writer

Thanks to an offer by a commercial satellite broadcast station, the Defense Agency and Self-Defense Forces have apparently acquired a convenient tool to publicize their activities.

Peace Channel, put on by broadcaster Peace Channel Corp. and claiming to be the first channel specializing in national security and crisis management issues, will debut Friday on Sky PerfecTV.

Its programs, including documentaries on SDF exercises and overseas activities, interviews with the Defense Agency chief and footage on the daily lives of SDF personnel inside bases, are being produced in cooperation with the Defense Agency, the National Police Agency, the Japan Coast Guard and the Fire Defense Agency.

Nearly half of the daily programs to be shown to subscribers on monthly contracts are scheduled to focus on the SDF.

“There is a growing interest in national security compared with 10 years ago,” said Yukie Amano, president of Peace Channel Corp. “But the problem is everybody thinks it is someone else’s business.”

Amano said the aim of the channel is to make people take security issues more to heart.

For the Defense Agency, the offer from the company was a heaven-sent chance to publicize the SDF’s activities. Although the agency has secured a 4.92 trillion yen fiscal 2003 budget, only 800 million yen is reserved for public relations activities, according to agency officials.

All government ministries and agencies are currently under pressure from the Cabinet to provide the public a greater overview of their activities. However, a top Defense Agency official in charge of public relations admitted, “We can’t keep pace because of a lack of money.”

The agency said it does not spend any money on the programs to be aired on the channel and only provides visual content.

The agency hopes Peace Channel will contribute to public relations in the same way as some print publications, such as the monthly Japan Military Review, or the Asagumo newspaper, which deals exclusively with Defense Agency and SDF subjects.

“It’s a benefit of the multichannel era,” the agency official said. “We hope to take this opportunity and promote greater public understanding of our activities.”

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