50 Years of NHK Television

Starting Historic Moments

The period from 1962 to 1972 was a tremendously dynamic era in the evolution of satellite transmissions. Beginning with the first successful trans-Atlantic TV relay (1962), this period included the 1969 Apollo mission to the moon, and culminated in 1972 with the start of Intelsat commercial satellite services. Once TV satellite relays became practical in the 1970's, people were able to watch historic events simultaneously around the world. TV images began to produce shared experiences and shared memories.

The power of TV: news gains fresh significance

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Tokyo Olympics: the women's volleyball
Tokyo Olympics: the women's volleyball final (Japan vs. USSR) sets audience share record of 85%
High-impact images from Asia
The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games had a great impact, and became known as the "TV Olympics." The efforts of NHK's technical and production teams contributed to a landmark event by enabling simultaneous intercontinental viewing of the Games via satellite.

Olympics via satellite
The satellite relays reflected the determination of the TV industry in Japan. The first satellite relay between North America and Europe had been successfully carried out on July 11, 1962. The first trial U.S.-Japan satellite relay came in the following year, on November 23, showing Japanese the tragedy of the Kennedy assassination. There were still no geo-stationary satellites at that time, so a telecast of 20 minutes or so was a considerable feat.
The Japanese team conceived a plan to use the American Syncom 3 geo-stationary satellite, which was designed for telephone use and scheduled for launch in 1964. The American side doubted the proposal's feasibility, but the NHK technical team worked around the clock and solved all the technical issues with a few days to spare prior to the opening ceremony.

Tokyo Olympic
NHK organized Tokyo Olympic TV relays for all domestic and foreign broadcasters, covering 16 of the 20 events. Eight events were telecast live each day.


TV enabled people to see world-class competition in their living rooms, without having to be present at the actual venue. In effect, they could watch for free.

A globally shared experience
The infrastructure for Intelsat satellite relays was established a month before the 1969 Apollo mission, with the moon landing taking place at 5:17:40 a.m. (JST) on July 21, 1969. At 11:56:20 a.m., Neil Armstrong took man's first step on the moon's surface.
Studio for the live broadcast from Apollo
Studio for the live broadcast from Apollo
It is estimated that more than 600 million people (out of a world population of around 3 billion) listened simultaneously to the historic words, "That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The images broadcast from 380,000 km away sparked excitement all over the world. According to an NHK study, 68.3% of Japanese respondents had watched the moment of the moon landing via live telecast on either NHK or the commercial stations, and 90.8% had watched the astronauts walking on the moon on regular TV news programs on the same day.
The broadcasting of man's landing on the moon was a genuine dream come true for people in the TV industry.

Local broadcasters / Coverage of the A-bombings and peace issues

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