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Fifty years of NHK’s educational programming

NHK's educational channel, Educational TV, just reached its 50th anniversary last month. To mark this commemorative year, ETV will be airing numerous special programs and taking part in special projects. One such initiative is 'Challenge,' the European Broadcasting Union's Youth Documentary Exchange, the mandate of which is to create 15-minute docs aimed at a 10- to 12-year-old audience. Realscreen spoke with Ritsuko Sakai, senior producer of NHK's program production department and Tomoko Kumanomido, associate director of NHK's programming department, about the longevity of ETV and the channel's project for the EBU.
February 11, 2009

NHK’s educational channel, Educational TV, just reached its 50th anniversary last month. To mark this commemorative year, ETV will be airing numerous special programs and taking part in special projects, one of which is ‘Challenge,’ the European Broadcasting Union’s Youth Documentary Exchange, the mandate of which is to create 15 minute docs aimed at a 10- to 12-year-old audience. Realscreen spoke with Ritsuko Sakai, senior producer of NHK’s program production department and Tomoko Kumanomido, associate director of NHK’s programming department, about the longevity of ETV and the channel’s project for the EBU.

It’s one thing to make a documentary on the subject of children, but how do you approach the making of a doc that is targeted at an audience of 10 to 12 year olds?
Ritsuko Sakai: NHK participated in this project with the story of a 4th grade boy’s ‘challenge’ of returning to school after a long time in hospital fighting his illness. In this program, we tried to take away all preconception the adults might have for kids fighting illness by narrating in the boy’s own words. He will describe his feelings and circumstances, the encounter and parting with his friends in hospital and his friends in school in his point of view and in a way kids would talk to each other.

How did NHK get involved in the EBU exchange this year?
RS: NHK deeply assented to the concept of producing documentaries for children, not about children, and to show that children’s words have dignity. Other than the story we have submitted, we will also produce 15 more stories under this concept, and adding the 20 stories from around the world, NHK will broadcast a weekly series under the title Colorful! – Children of the World.

What other special programming do you have planned for the 50th anniversary of your Educational channel?
Tomoko Kumanomido: As a public broadcaster, NHK will feature a year-long Kids Support campaign in which our documentaries, welfare programs, kids’ programs, and programs for young parents will all join to participate. The programs will try to be as close as possible to children’s hearts, listen to their voices, and face the worries and troubles in families. Another feature is a classic puppet show that is going to be aired from October, 2009. The series will be based on the story of The Three Musketeers. NHK used to do many puppet shows as entertainment for infants and children, but since 1995, we haven’t done any as series. In this anniversary year, NHK will restore the traditional, warm hand-made style of kids’ programming production, as a gift for all children.

What would you say is the reason Educational TV has lasted so long at NHK?
TK: It may be because the channel has been very close to each viewer’s personal life.

NHK’s Educational TV was first established 50 years ago to respond to public demand, and for the purpose to expand cultural, educational programs that is valuable for the growth of juveniles. Its catch-phrase ‘The Adventure of Learning’ has been the concept for 50 years. The channel has been offering programs that viewers can benefit from and practice in their life without being constrained by convention and ratings. Viewers can enjoy learning and acquire information that is necessary in each stage of their lives which we think makes the channel very unique.

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