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Gov't to allow public broadcaster NHK to simultaneously stream its programs online

This Jan. 13, 2014 file photo shows the NHK Broadcasting Center, in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has decided to allow public broadcaster NHK to begin simultaneous online streaming of its programs broadcast on TV, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned. NHK hopes to start online streaming in fiscal 2019.

    The ministry, which made the decision July 11, is poised to submit a bill covering necessary legal changes at a regular session of the Diet next year. The ministry's panel of experts headed by Chiba University Professor Emeritus Kazuteru Tagaya is expected to give simultaneous online streaming the green light on July 13, saying in its draft report on the subject that the arrangement has "a certain level of rationality."

    Private TV networks, however, are concerned about the planned move because they believe NHK's dominance will grow as a result.

    NHK had sought permission from the communication ministry to simultaneously stream all of its programs on its general and educational channels before the end of fiscal 2019, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. Currently, only programs on disasters and major sports events are allowed to be simultaneously broadcast on the web, but the bill being prepared for consideration would permit 24-hour streaming of NHK programs that are being broadcast on television.

    The expert panel emphasized in its draft report that for NHK to start simulcasting, it should strengthen cooperation with private broadcasters, in light of concerns from the private sector that the public broadcaster could push them out of business. The report urges NHK to be considerate of private broadcasters' concerns, with expressions in the report implying that the panel expects NHK to restrict simultaneous coverage of local programs so that damage to local private stations is limited.

    As preconditions for allowing simulcasting, the panel has discussed reforms, such as how NHK will collect viewer fees and carry out its business, as well as countermeasures against scandals involving its affiliate companies. The draft report urges the public broadcaster to "secure the trust of the general public and viewers" by improving its transparency on those issues. It also explicitly promotes reviews of viewer fee levels and related options, as well as of NHK's entire business structure.

    The government's Regulatory Reform Promotion Council recommended on June 4 that a conclusion should be reached "soon" on whether to allow NHK to carry out simultaneous online streaming.

    (Japanese original by Naoyuki Inukai and Tomohiro Inoue, Cultural News Department; Arimasa Mori, Business News Department)

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