TOP PAGE > P20 Globalization: The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Gulf War

The Fall of the Berlin Wall
and the Gulf War

1984 NHK begins test satellite broadcasting
1989 Emperor Showa passes away
1989 NHK begins regular satellite broadcasting
1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall (November)
1991 Gulf War (January)
1991 Test broadcast on HDTV-only channel begins (June)
1991 Collapse of the former Soviet Union (December)
1995 The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake
1998 Digital international broadcast "NHK World TV" begins


The last decade of the 20th century was packed with news events of massive global impact. These included the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, and the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Television was able to provide continuing coverage of these events. As the global community grew increasingly interconnected, TV began to take on the aspect of a network linking every inhabitant of planet Earth.

1989 Broadcast Networks Link the Entire Earth: "We Are One World"

First International Radio Relay Broadcast in Japan (1930)

The first-ever direct international relay broadcast of an event is considered to be the transmission from Dorchester Station in London, in which Reijiro Wakatsuki, Japanese Minister Plenipotentiary to the London Disarmament Conference, made a "declaration to the Japanese nation". This broadcast was received at Yokkaichi receiving station of the Nippon Radio Telephone Company, and then transmitted nationwide via the Nagoya station (Feb. 9, 1930).

Lifeline of Global Community

In 1989 , the Showa era ended, and the Heisei era began in Japan. Tectonic shifts were taking place in the areas of international politics, economics, and society during the final ten years of the 20th century. By the time regular satellite broadcasting was started by NHK in 1989, drastic changes on the international scene were happening daily. These events included the student protests in Tiananmen Square in China, the fall of Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989, the Gulf War in January 1991. In August that same year, there was a failed coup d'etat by conservatives that marked the beginning of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, which in turn led to the end of the Cold War. It has been said that the spread of information via TV played a significant role in ending the Cold War. As is the global community becomes increasingly interdependent, TV seems to be a vast network linking every inhabitant of planet Earth.

Transmissions from overseas via communication satellite were approximately 50 hours per year when NHK started its service in 1968. This grew to 7,600 hours in 1989, and 19,200 hours in 1999. Information sent abroad from Japan reached 6,700 hours in 1999.

Prompt Report System for Newscasts

The introduction of the satellite news gathering (SNG) system in Japan coincided with the proliferation of the satellite broadcasting network. The SNG system established a relay broadcast system capable of sending video data from anywhere in Japan by simply pointing the transmitting antenna at the satellite. In this sense, the satellite transmission system became available to both Japan and the world within a short period of time.

This simplified news delivery system made it possible to provide immediate and continuous news coverage, even during major man-made and/or natural disasters.

Simultaneous Terror Attacks

On the evening of September 11, 2001, NHK's "News at 10" broadcast live the very moment that a commercial airliner crashed into the World Trade Center, a prominent landmark in the U.S. The live relay broadcast's continuing coverage included shocking footage of the Pentagon in flames, and the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. Through satellite television, people across the globe bore simultaneous witness to the largest terrorist attacks in human history.
Later, live reports related to the 9.11 attacks and aftermath, such as scenes from the "war" against the Taliban in Afghanistan,were delivered using cellular phones and videophones thanks to advanced communications technology.

The Taliban, widely reported to have banned TV viewing, sent video messages from Osama Bin Laden via the satellite TV station "Al Jazeera" in Qatar immediately following attacks in the U.S. and U.K. TV has become something no one can afford to ignore.