Television in Japan

Television in Japan

Television broadcasting in Japan started in 1939,[1] making the country one of the first in the world with an experimental television service. In spite of that, because of the beginning of World War II in the Pacific region, this first experimentation lasted only a few months. Regular television broadcasts started only after the war, in 1951.

A modified version of the North American NTSC system for analog signals, called NTSC-J was used for analog broadcast until 2011. Starting July 24, 2011, the analog broadcast has ceased and only digital broadcast using the ISDB standarad is available.

All Japanese households having at least one TV set are mandated to pay an annual subscription fee used to fund NHK, the Japanese public service broadcaster. The fee varies from 14,910 to 28,080 JPY depending on the method and timing of payment and on whether one receives only terrestrial television or also satellite broadcasts.[2] Households on welfare may be excused from the subscription payments.


Terrestrial television

In Japan, there are six nationwide television networks, as follows:

Name Key Stationsa
Sub-Key Stationsb
Flagship Stations
Launch Owner & Affiliation
Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK)
Japan Broadcasting Corporation
1950 Public broadcasting
NHK deliberately maintains neutral reportings as a public broadcast station, to the point of even refusing to mention commodity brand names.[3]
Nippon News Network (NNN)
Nippon Television Network System (NNS)
1950 Nippon Television Network Corporation
Affiliated with the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Japan News Network (JNN) 1955 Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Inc.
Affiliated with the Mainichi Shimbun.
Fuji News Network (FNN)
Fuji Network System (FNS)
1959 Fuji Media Holdings, Inc.
Affiliated with the Sankei Shimbun.
All-Nippon News Network (ANN) 1959 TV Asahi Corporation
Affiliated with the Asahi Shimbun.
TV Tokyo Network / TX Network (TXN) 1964 TV Tokyo Corporation
Has ties with the Nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shimbun).

^a "Key stations" (キー局 kī kyoku?) refer to Tokyo-based "network leaders" and also de-facto owners of their respective networks.
^b "Sub-key stations" (準キー局 jun-kī kyoku?) flagship stations based in Osaka, which play major roles in their respective networks, such as producing key TV content to be distributed nationwide.
^c TV Osaka and TV Aichi are only available in their respective prefectures (Osaka and Aichi) rather than the regions they represent.

In addition to networks above, commercial stations not affiliated with the above form a non-strict network called the Japanese Association of Independent Television Stations (JAITS). Apart from them, the Open University of Japan broadcasts to the whole Kanto region with programmes—mostly in-house productions.

Regional affiliates and other local channels









  • NNN: Shizuoka Daiichi TV
  • ANN: Asahi TV
  • FNN: TV Shizuoka





  • JNN: RKK Kumamoto Hoso
  • ANN: KAB Kumamoto Asahi Hoso
  • NNN: KKT Kumamoto Kenmin TV
  • FNN: TKU TV Kumamoto



Digital television

Japan pioneered HDTV for decades with an analog implementation (MUSE/Hi-Vision). The old system is not compatible with the new digital standards. Japanese terrestrial broadcasting of HD via ISDB-T started on December 1, 2003 in the Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya metropolitan areas. It has been reported that 27 million HD receivers had been sold in Japan as of October 2007.[4]

The Japanese government is studying the implementation of some improvements on the standard as suggested by Brazilian researchers (SBTVD). These new features are unlikely to be adopted in Japan due to incompatibility problems, but are being considered for use in future implementations in other countries, including Brazil itself.[5]

Analog terrestrial television broadcasts in Japan were scheduled to end on July 24, 2011, as per the current Japanese broadcasting law.[6] However, the switchover was delayed indefinitely in Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate prefectures, which still broadcast in analog along with the digital standard used elsewhere. This was due to a desire to reduce the inconvenience of those affected most by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. It is not yet known when a new deadline might be implemented for these areas.

Satellite television

The medium-scale Broadcasting Satellite for Experimental Purposes (BSE) was planned by Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MOPT) and developed by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) since 1974. After that, the first Japanese experimental broadcasting satellite, called BSE or Yuri, was launched in 1978. NHK started experimental broadcasting of TV program using BS-2a satellite on May, 1984.

The satellite BS-2a was launched in preparation for the start of full scale 2-channel broadcasts. Broadcasting Satellite BS-2a was the first national DBS (direct broadcasting satellite), transmitting signals directly into the home of TV viewers. Attitude control of the satellite was conducted using the 3 axial method (zero momentum), and design life was 5 years. The TV transponder units are designed to sufficiently amplify transmitted signals to enable reception by small, 40 or 60 cm home-use parabolic antennas. The satellite was equipped with 3 TV transponders (including reserve units). However, one transponder malfunctioned 2 months after launch (March 23, 1984) and a second transponder malfunctioned 3 months after launch (May 3, 1984). So, the scheduled satellite broadcasting had to be hastily adjusted to test broadcasting on a single channel.

Later, NHK started regular service (NTSC) and experimental HDTV broadcasting using BS-2b on June, 1989. Some Japanese producers of home electronic consumer devices began to deliver TV sets, VCRs and even home acoustic systems equipped by built-in satellite tuners or receivers. Such electronic goods had a specific BS logo.

On April, 1991, Japanese company JSB started pay TV service while BS-3 communication satellite was in use. In 1996 total number of households that receive satellite broadcasting exceeded 10 million.

The modern two satellite systems in use in Japan are BSAT and JCSAT; the modern WOWOW Broadcasting Satellite digital service uses BSAT satellites, while other system of digital TV broadcasting SKY PerfecTV! uses JCSAT satellites.

Satellite channels

  • NHK BS1 (HDTV)
  • NHK BS Premium (HDTV)
  • BS Nittele (HDTV)—Operated by Nippon Television
  • BS Asahi (HDTV)—Operated by TV Asahi
  • BS-TBS (HDTV)—Operated by TBS Television
  • BS JAPAN (HDTV)—Operated by TV Tokyo
  • BS FUJI (HDTV)—Operated by Fuji Television
  • Star Channel HV (HDTV)
  • BS 11 (HDTV)
  • World Hi-vision Channel (HDTV)


While TV programs vary from station to station, some generalizations can be made. Early morning hours are dominated by news programs, and these run from around 9:00 to 9:30 AM. They are then replaced by late morning shows that target wives who have finished their housework. These run to around 1:30PM, at which time reruns of dramas and information programs that target the same age group start. At around 4:00PM, the young kid-oriented anime and TV shows start, and end around 6:00PM. News programs takeover for an hour ending in 7:00PM, when the "Golden Hour" of TV shows start. 7:00PM to 9:00PM are the time periods into which TV stations pour the most resources. Appearing in this time frame is a certain sign that an actor or actress is a TV star. After 9:00 they switch over to Japanese television dramas and programs focusing on older age groups, which run till 10:00 or 11:00PM. Some stations run news programs from 10:00PM, and around midnight sports news programs run which target working ages. After these, programs for mature audiences run as well as anime that do not expect enough viewers if they were run earlier.

The Japanese have sometimes subdivided television series and dramas into kūru (クール?), from the French term "cours" for "course", which is a 3-month period usually of 13 episodes. Each kūru generally has its own opening and ending image sequence and song, recordings of which are often sold.


Japanese dramas (テレビドラマ terebi dorama?, television drama) are a staple of Japanese television and are broadcast daily. All major TV networks in Japan produce a variety of drama series including romance, comedies, detective stories, horror, and many others. With a theme, there may be a one-episode drama, or 2-nights, that may be aired on special occasions, such as in 2007 where they had a drama produced as a sixty-year anniversary from the end of the World War II, with a theme of the atomic bomb.

Science fiction

Japan has a long history of producing science fiction series for TV. Only a few of these series are aired outside Japan and even when aired, they tend to be edited, rarely retaining their original storyline. Non-anime science fiction are still largely unknown to foreign audiences. An exception is Mighty Morphin' Pimpin Rangers and their subsequent series that used battle sequences from the Super Sentai counterpart and combined them with American actors who acted out entirely original story lines.


Anime (アニメ?), taken from half of the Japanese pronunciation of "animation", is animation in Japan and considered to be "Japanese animation" in the rest of the world.[7] Anime dates from about 1917.[8] TV networks regularly broadcast anime programming. In Japan, major national TV networks, such as TV Tokyo broadcast anime regularly. Smaller regional stations broadcast anime on UHF. Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece are examples of anime.

Variety shows

Japanese variety shows are television entertainment made up of a variety of original stunts, musical performances, comedy skits, quiz contests, and other acts. Japanese television programs such as Music Station and Utaban continue in an almost pristine format from the same variety shows of years before. The only major changes have been the increasing disappearance of live backup music since the 1980s.

See also


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