The first live TV news relay
The first TV news relay showed the departure
of Crown Prince Akihito (the present Emperor) from the Port of Yokohama
on March 30, 1953. He was going to Britain to represent
the Emperor at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and his departure
came just two months after TV broadcasting began. NHK's engineers set
up a temporary relay station on Mt. Tsurumi, halfway between Yokohama
and Tokyo, to attempt their first two-step relay broadcast.
On this occasion, the crew used a 600-mm
telescopic lens for the first time to capture close-ups of the Crown
Prince as he stood on the deck of the President Wilson. This provided
a closer view than would have been possible even for people actually
present. It became an 85-minute live relay that showed everyone the
power of TV.
The power of TV
Live news coverage with images was something
that only television could achieve. The discovery of a broadcasting
format that underlined TV's potential boosted the confidence of people
working in the industry.
Sharing the experience
In 1959, the betrothal of the Crown Prince
to Shoda Michiko, a commoner, sparked the so-called "Michi boom,"
and generated an eagerness to watch the royal wedding that significantly
accelerated the spread of TV in Japan. Coverage on the wedding day was
Japan's largest-ever live relay, mobilizing a total of 100 cameras and
1,000 personnel from both NHK and commercial broadcasting companies.
Around 15 million Japanese are said to
have watched the royal wedding, making this the first occasion on which
the entire nation was able to share an experience through television.
Jirocho and the Japanese
Developing TV journalism
When TV broadcasting began, every-thing
was shot on film, since VTRs had not yet been developed. Cinema used
35-mm film, but TV relied on the more mobile and efficient 16-mm cameras
to offer its own film-based coverage. This gave birth to a new type
of program, the TV documentary. One especially notable series was Japan
Unveiled, the first of a genre that came to be called the social
documentary. It marked a departure from the conventional role of the
news broadcasting media, which was simply to relay facts and events.
By offering a clear perspective and opinions, these early documentaries
pioneered today's approach to the presentation of news and current affairs.
The concept of
Japan Unveiled (1957-64) was carried on by subsequent series
Images of Contemporary Society (1964-71), Documentary
(1971-76), and NHK Tokushu (1976-89).
Documentaries came to be seen as a key element of TV journalism.