Koizumi seeks more NHK foreign language outreach


In a bow to globalization, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is making at least one exception to his “small government” crusade: He is considering an expansion of the foreign-language programming offered by NHK, Japan’s public TV and radio broadcaster.

NHK has come under the scrutiny of Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka, who has called for restructuring the broadcast giant, hit by various scandals and a subscriber plunge, as a showcase of his efforts to scale back state-linked organizations.

But Koizumi, who held a meeting with prominent foreign residents of Japan at the prime minister’s office Thursday to discuss ways to attract foreign tourists, ordered Takenaka to look at increasing NHK’s English and other foreign language programming in order to boost Japan’s outreach to non-Japanese, both here and abroad.

The request came during an informal Cabinet meeting Friday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

“(NHK) should consider more ways to transmit (information on Japan) overseas,” Koizumi told reporters Friday at Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

“I think (NHK’s) broadcasting services in English and other languages should be increased, rather than reduced, and I have asked the internal affairs minister to give thorough consideration to this matter.”

Koizumi added that it would be acceptable to reduce the size of the NHK organization, but that he believes broadcasting in English should be increased.

On Thursday, prominent overseas residents of Japan were invited to his office to discuss tourism promotion. One participant reportedly suggested that NHK set up a service dedicated to programming for foreign residents in Japan.

NHK operates separate television and radio stations for domestic and overseas audiences.

NHK Channel 1, the main terrestrial TV channel for domestic viewers, currently airs bilingual programs in English and Japanese for 10.5 hours a week; 56 percent of the programming on NHK World TV, a 24-hour service for overseas viewers, is in English.

NHK World Radio Japan airs a total of 65 hours of programming per day in 22 languages for overseas listeners.