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A government panel Monday began discussing ways to increase government and business cooperation for enhancing Japan’s international television broadcasting capabilities and its ability to send information abroad, the communications ministry said.

The advisory committee to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry kicked off the series of meetings as part of a government plan to improve Japanese telecommunications and broadcasting sector operations, it said.

The plan, announced Friday by communications minister Heizo Takenaka, urges public broadcaster NHK to strengthen its international TV broadcasting services.

This would include starting a new full-fledged broadcasting service in fiscal 2009 that would conform to an “all-Japan formula” controlled by a new NHK subsidiary to be partly capitalized by private broadcasters.

The ministry is ready to submit an amendment to the Broadcast Law to the Diet next year to start the project after the panel makes its recommendations, which are due by March, officials said.

During the meeting, panelists discussed their visions for the new broadcasts and examined the state of NHK’s present international TV and radio broadcasts, they said.

NHK’s radio programs are aired in 22 languages. It also beams free English and Japanese news and other programs for non-Japanese via the NHK World TV channel, as well as fee-based Japanese-language TV programs that emphasize entertainment-oriented content via the NHK World Premium channel.

NHK World TV can be received by 72 million households overseas.

Under the government’s new overseas-bound broadcast service, it is assumed that news, entertainment and documentary programs about Japan will be distributed via satellite and the Internet.

Proponents also are assuming the operations of the planned NHK subsidiary will be financed by commercial advertising revenue and taxpayer money.

The panel will discuss a range of points, including fundraising matters and programming seen as suitable for the new broadcasts, the officials said.

But private-sector broadcasters are reticent about putting up capital for the new NHK subsidiary, so solidifying its financial base is likely to be a major task for the panel.

In February, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi instructed Takenaka to devise a plan to enhance international English broadcasts, prompting both his advisers and a panel from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to brainstorm on getting concrete results.

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