Every Sunday morning at 8:00am, NHK's educational channel broadcasts a program called 「野菜の時間」 (yasai no jikan - "Vegetable Time"). I discovered this program in early November and have been faithfully recording it every week.
What is really cool about this show is that it is recorded within a week before broadcast, so the weather events and seasonal changes that I am experiencing are also dealt with by the program. The planting phases that the program goes through each week can be mimicked by viewers. This means that when the program shows that this week is a certain time to do something (treat for bugs, prepare soil, harvest), the viewer is able to follow along in real time.
Additionally, this program has an accompanying monthly magazine that describes the content of the show. I haven't bought the magazine, but I thumbed through it at the bookstore and was impressed at the detail of information contained.
This week it seems like they've started a new broadcast season and the old female host has been replaced by a new one. Last year they introduced 西城秀樹 (Saijo Hideki), a Japanese entertainer with little more than an interest in farming/gardening. In a year, he's become pretty adept at all the various gardening skills the program has taught. I think the new host is to also go through a year of learning.
NHK works similarly to the BBC, in that it relies on a "tax" paid by TV owners. Every year, a fleet of taxmen work their way through neighborhoods ringing doorbells and asking for payment. It is a very inefficient system.
First of all, the broadcast is available by tuning in to channels 1 or 3. There is no way to be blocked from receiving the broadcast. This is be design, since the government intends that the NHK can act as an emergency broadcasting system.
Second, the taxmen can only collect money from people they talk to. Many people avoid paying the NHK tax simply by pretending to not be home. Other people avoid paying by intimidating the taxmen. Needless to say, most people are not paying the tax.
Sitting around watching my gardening show, I thought about this problem a bit and how I would be more amenable to paying the tax if there were an actual value that I felt I gained from the NHK. The solution I came up with makes a lot of sense to me.
What if the NHK provided a DVD set of 1 or 2 NHK programming series plus additional monthly material like the magazines I mentioned above? This would actually encourage viewers to pay the tax, and a set of physical items which people who didn't pay wouldn't receive.
Of course, everyone I know pays the tax...