Comments from the Top (NHK President)

Summary of Press Conference (June, 2020)

  • How NHK is responding to a world with the new coronavirus

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu, President)

    In response to the lifting of the state of emergency which had been declared to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, NHK is gradually starting to allow people from outside the organization who appear on programs to come into studios again, along with shooting on location, outside broadcasts and productions. In terms of dramas and programs with public audiences, a manual with rules governing production has been created and we are moving forward with preparations to restart their recording. Both the Taiga historical drama “Awaiting Kirin” and the morning serial drama “Ochoyan” are restarting production from June.
    As regards the simultaneous continuous online streaming and program catch-up service NHK Plus, many people have watched programs and news related to the new coronavirus, up to the end of May, around 730,000 households have applied to register as users. Going forward, we hope to continue to deliver useful information to all our viewers and will be enhancing features including a fuller program catch-up playlist.
    On the other hand, many sports competitions such as the National High School Baseball Championship (Summer Koshien) and the National High School Sports Championships (Inter-High), which are broadcast every year, have been cancelled. Against this background, NHK is moving ahead with examining how to deliver the kind of broadcasts and services that only it can, while taking into account the situation in different regions.
    For programs with public audiences, including the “NHK Nodo Jiman” amateur song contest, and events, we are working to create an environment where audiences can again safely participate, but I believe it will take a little more time before it will be possible for people to be able to attend venues.
    With regards to business operations at NHK, with thorough measures put in place to prevent the spread of infections, notifications regarding receiving fee contracts will be mailed out and other policies implemented from June allowing such work to restart without face-to-face contact with our customers. In the future, taking into account requests from local governments and the situation with infections, we will step-by-step begin calling on people’s homes again.
    The spread of the new coronavirus is bringing about significant changes to our society and lifestyles, which is an opportunity for us to reexamine the way we deliver broadcasting and services in the future. I think we are gaining a lot of experience in how to adjust to producing programs remotely and other ways of working in the times of the virus and the post-pandemic world.
    Practices such as staggered working hours and telework are being increasingly utilized, changing the way all our staff works. I heard that the number of people entering the Broadcast Center in Shibuya, Tokyo during the state of emergency was around 60% fewer than usual. The spread of the new coronavirus has forced changes to our ways of life along with accelerating reform of the way we work.
    The state of emergency has been lifted, but the threat of the new coronavirus has not yet disappeared. Built around measures to avoid the so-called ‘three Cs’ (Closed spaces, Crowded places and Close-contact settings), while continuing to work to prevent infection, we will continue to aim to deliver genuinely useful broadcast services to all our viewers and the nation’s citizens.

  • What will happen with programs like the year-end NHK Kohaku Utagassen (Red-and-White Year-End Song Festival) and Omoide no Melody (Melodies in Memories), in terms of allowing audiences in to recordings?

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    Well, with the year-end Kohaku, we don’t know what the situation will be at the end of the year, but I don’t think it will be possible to proceed as usual. I am now looking into various ways we could deliver Kohaku this year. As soon as we have decided what will happen, we will make an announcement.
    As for “Omoide no Melody” and others, there are various major programs, some without audiences, some live, and we are now considering in what forms we can broadcast them. We want to provide as much information as possible, but because the enemy is a virus, I would like to ask for a little more time before we announce our response.

  • On the impact of the new coronavirus on business operations

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    The new coronavirus pandemic has impacted the business of many workplaces and the helpline we established at the end of March has received a large number of requests for cancellation of receiving fee contracts and to defer payments due to companies temporarily closing or going out of business. In addition, customers from ordinary households are also discussing deferring payments.
    In accordance with the central government’s state of emergency declaration and stay-at-home requests from local authorities, NHK has also refrained from calling on people’s homes nationwide.
    Due to this, for the business performance in the first period of the current fiscal year, up to the end of May, the total number of new receiving fee contracts was down 85,000 compared to last year, with the number of satellite contracts falling sharply by 28,000. Looking at it in terms of growth rate, the overall number of contracts fell by 0.2% and satellite contracts fell by 0.1%; this is 21.6% below our annual target for overall contracts and 5.1% for satellite contracts, a very grave situation.
    Looking ahead, while taking measures against the spread of infection, the situation regarding the pandemic, along with the changes in society, we will implement appropriate responses in our business operations.

  • On the Radio 1 special programs “Minna de Hikikomori Radio”

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    As the situation has worsened year by year, NHK has covered the hikikomori (social recluse) issue while considering how to respond to this social problem as a public service media organization. As part of our efforts, NHK Radio 1 will as a year-long continuous initiative, broadcast “Minna de Hikikomori Radio” programs made with people directly involved with this condition.
    In July, feature programs will be broadcast on two consecutive evenings. The person responsible will talk about this in more detail.

    (Comments by the producer)

    These programs will take a radio-style approach, with the goal of making them with people involved with the hikikomori issue. People with the condition and those who support them will participate in the program, while getting close to them, connecting with them and spending time with them, to be able to talk to them. We want to make radio a place to do that, with two programs scheduled for broadcast in July. On May 7th, the first program was broadcast live for two hours while the country was under the state of emergency. Guests and listeners appeared remotely via telephone, and the program featured people involved in hikikomori, including those suffering from the condition; a very large number of people participated. For example, we had messages from people who had become distant from their family and thought they had managed to break free of the condition, but due to the impact of the pandemic, had gone back to being reclusive.
    The next two programs will be broadcast on the evenings of July 23rd and 24th, from 10:05 to 10:55p.m. We would like to make this a time for listeners to think about and empathize with the troubles faced by hikikomori people and those who support them, as we take requests and submissions to the program.

  • On the July line-up for BS8K

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu, President)

    It continues to be impossible to attend concerts or plays these days. In July on BS8K, programs bringing back concerts by giants of the 20th century music world will be broadcast. The programs have been newly created to deliver the feeling of transporting viewers from their homes back in time to the concert hall and enjoy the performances. The person responsible will explain about the programs in more detail.

    (Comments by the producer)

    This is the second series of the well-received “Ima Yomigaeru Densetsu no Mei-ensou – Mei-butai (Recreations of Legendary Musical and Theatrical Performances)” programs which were broadcast on BS8K in January. The original negative films were preserved in cold storage and once they are taken out and thawed, cannot be put back into cold storage. For the purposes of converting them into 8K, NHK was given permission from the films’ owner to take them out of cold storage.

    The world is being impacted in unprecedented ways by the new coronavirus pandemic. Against the background of a variety of restrictions on our lifestyles, such as people not being able to travel, watch sports, go to concerts or art museums, BS8K is delivering worthwhile cultural and historical content, as well as picturesque scenery from Japan and around the world.

  • An apology was issued over the video used in the June 7th broadcast of “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima (Now I understand! The World Now)”, what is your opinion on it?

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    We received criticism and opinions from many people over this broadcast. I accepted these opinions seriously and took the video down, and an apology was broadcast as our initial response. Again, I would like to sincerely apologize to those who were offended. Taking into account what occurred, an immediate warning was issued to all those involved in program production to check their programs again and thoroughly confirm there are no issues with them, to ensure nothing like this happens again. In order to prevent a recurrence, particularly with news reporting, where this should be a fundamental principle, I believe human rights must be thoroughly respected.

  • Why do you think this video came to be made?

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    From what I’ve heard, the idea was to use an animation to make it easy to understand, but one part of it was extremely inappropriate. I heard the explanation that ‘if you watch all of it you can understand it’, but if one part of it when taken alone is wrong, then it is wrong; all we can do is make sure this doesn’t happen again. So we apologized. As for why this happened, all we can say is that the people involved need to learn more about the issue.

  • The fact that this video was made by NHK has been picked up media from countries around the world

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    This doesn’t represent our position as a news broadcaster, but the fact that this happened is an embarrassment.

  • Do you intend to, at the very least, reexamine awareness of human rights and broadcasting ethics or will you take this as a one-off problem?

    (Comments by MAEDA Terunobu)

    In terms of fundamental education, the response cannot be a one-off, so I think proper education around this issue is essential. We have a large number of personnel, so at every opportunity, thorough training is needed, and just talking about it theoretically is not enough; that needs to be understood. Even if the people who produced this didn’t do so out of malice, the end result was what occurred, so people will think ‘what on earth are you doing?’, therefore I think we need to engage in comprehensive training.