50 Years of NHK Television

80's New Programs for Changing Times

The late 1980's were a time of global structural change. At NHK, the introduction of satellite broadcasting made it possible to cover international news more broadly and in greater depth. From the passing of the Emperor Showa to the fall of the Berlin Wall, TV was there to share historic moments with viewers.

The era changes on-screen

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JAL jumbo jet crashes in Gunma Pref.
Toyota Shoji scam
Tsukuba Science Expo
Tokyo Summit
New Philippines government
Mt. Mihara erupts
Japan National Railways privatization
Wall Street crash
Emperor's last illness
Recruit Scandal
Seto-Ohashi Bridge
Seoul Olympics
Heisei era begins
Fall of Berlin Wall
Tiananmen Square
Misora Hibari dies
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
More local programming in evening   30 million color TV sets New NHK News Center Full-scale satellite broadcasting
NHK Special

TV and globalization
Japan's economy grew rapidly after the Second World War. People's daily lives became intricately linked with the rest of the world. Together with economic globalization, Japan itself became an influential player on the global scene. In the vanguard of this new era, NHK commenced its first test satellite broadcasts in 1984, with the aim of establishing a network capable of conveying comprehensive, accurate information from abroad. People in Japan now had to adapt to a new international reality.
By the late 80's, the NHK Tokushu timeslot had been expanded to three times a week, enabling NHK to produce programs that offered a broader, more global viewpoint. Programs dealing with domestic issues like Who Does the Land Belong To?, which chronicled the explosion in assets during the bubble years, also aroused great interest throughout Japanese society.

NHK Special: 165 programs a year
In 1989, after 13 years, NHK Tokushu was reborn with the name NHK Special. The program was given the Sunday evening prime time slot with flexible programming when required. NHK had now established a framework for rapid program production and comprehensive coverage of world events.

  NHK Special covered major events both inside and outside Japan, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the events in Tiananmen Square, and the Recruit Scandal. Sometimes three to six consecutive evenings were devoted to such topics. Can the Recruit Scandal Lead to Political Reform? and Consumption Tax offer just two examples. In one year alone, 165 NHK Special programs were broadcast. Major series in 1990 included Socialism in the 20th Century, which featured worldwide coverage of the seismic political changes then taking place.

From Showa to Heisei
The Emperor Showa fell ill in the closing months of 1988 and died in January 1989. Japan entered the Heisei era. Television reported this transition from one era to the next for 111 consecutive days from the day the Emperor fell ill.

Global perspectives and greater choice
In 1989, NHK began full-scale satellite broadcasting on two channels. The service also provided programming for areas where terrestrial reception was poor. The BS-1 channel specializes in news and sports, while BS-2 focuses on culture and entertainment. In 13 years, NHK's satellite broadcasting has grown to become the world's most successful service provided by a single satellite, with 15 million viewing households.
Who Does the Land Belong To?
Who Does the Land Belong To?
Special program commemorating start of satellite broadcasts
Special program commemorating start of satellite broadcasts
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