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Japan launches English NHK World TV from AFP

Japan launches English NHK World TV
4 days ago

TOKYO (AFP) - NHK World TV went on air Monday as the latest English-language international news network as Japan joined the race to boost clout overseas by reaching out to viewers.

Broadcast 24 hours a day, the channel is accessible on five continents via satellite, cable, or on high-speed Internet connections at

Japan becomes the latest nation to launch an international network. France 24 and Al-Jazeera have both launched English-language channels to challenge the supremacy of CNN and the BBC.

China, which Japan often sees as a rival for influence, is also expanding overseas television channels and newspapers.

NHK World TV, which is revamped from an earlier more modest NHK English service, carries half an hour of news every hour on weekdays -- 10 minutes at weekends -- with the rest devoted to features on culture, science and economics.

Much of the coverage will focus on Japan but there will also be material on other parts of Asia.

"By showing various aspects of Japanese public opinion and trends, we can promote a better understanding of Japan around the world," said Hatsuhisa Takashima, head of Japan International Broadcasting, which runs the network.

Takashima, a former NHK journalist who later served as a foreign ministry spokesman, said Japan did not enjoy the level of media coverage befitting the world's second largest economy -- a void the channel hopes to fill.

NHK World TV will reach 80 million households on their television sets, a figure it hopes will grow to 150 million within five years.

While initially only in English, the network eventually plans to broadcast on the Internet in Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish.

Only part of the broadcasts will be available on the Internet and they will not be aired inside Japan.

Japanese leaders have often complained that the country does not get enough attention internationally -- particularly as media coverage grows of emerging economies such as China.

"Japan's television diplomacy is weak compared with that of other countries," Prime Minister Taro Aso said in 2006 when he was foreign minister.

The conservative leader called for the country to start an English-language international network and to be "more active in the promotion of Japanese culture overseas."

Takashima insisted that the network was not mere propaganda.

"We try to show Japan as it is. If there are controversial issues within Japan, we will try to show the pros and cons, every aspect of the public opinion, as much as possible," he said.

Japan International Broadcasting belongs 60 percent to NHK, which is financed by mandatory fees paid by households in Japan but does not receive direct state support.

Another 40 percent stake is held by 15 private companies, including four Japanese television groups.

NHK will provide most of the news coverage, with the network arranging original features. English-speaking Japanese public figures will be invited to participate on news shows.

Takashima said that the participation of so many Japanese companies was necessary to make the network competitive with CNN International or BBC World.

He also said that the television commercials helping finance the network would show aspects of Japan to the world.

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