Japanese media overview

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Japanese media overview

Japanese media overview

Physically, the mass media in Japan are quite similar to those in any developed nation, although perhaps somewhat more advanced.  In organizational structure, however, Japanese media are unique.  Individual elements of the Japanese media mix may resemble counterparts in other nations, but the combination is purely Japanese.
The primary characteristics of Japanese mass media are the influence of the national daily newspapers and  the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nihon Hoso Kyokai, or NHK) and the relative lack of localism.

The importance of newspapers

Japanese media are dominated by five national daily newspapers. The Asahi, Mainichi, Nihon Keizai, Sankei and Yomiuri Shimbun (newspaper) all publish both a morning and an evening edition, with total circulation of more than 40 million copies per day (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 53). Of the world’s ten highest daily circulation newspapers, the top three are Japanese, with the fourth highest having a circulation of just over one-third of the circulation of the Yomiuri Shimbun  (The United States is not represented in this list) (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 54). It is not surprising that Japan has the highest ratio of newspapers to people in the world, with 578 copies per day for every 1000 people (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 52).
Local newspapers are smaller than the nationals, and many are published only once or twice a week, even in cities with populations above 100,000.  However, the national newspapers all have regional sections.
The national daily newspapers are also involved in other media. All of the commercial television networks are either affiliated with or owned by a national newspaper (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 115). They are also heavily involved in radio broadcasting, although their presence is less influential.
Japanese book and magazine readership are also quite impressive.  In addition, Japan has a thriving comic book, or manga, industry.  Japanese comic books are for all ages and all types of people.  One can see people reading manga in restaurants, coffee shops, trains, buses, even schools and offices.  Sales of manga for 1984 totaled 297 billion yen (US$ 1.2 billion), although this figure does not include any of the income from manga-related products (Schodt, 1986, p. 138).

Nature of television broadcasting

 There are five major commercial and two public television networks in Japan. The public networks, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) general and education, are funded by annual license fees paid for every television set in the country. Although NHK is an independent entity, it enjoys a close and favored relationship with the government.  NHK is modeled after the British Broadcasting Corporation in many ways.  NHK also oversees radio networks, including shortwave broadcasts. In addition, NHK runs a publishing arm that prints workbooks that accompany its educational programs and guidebooks that provide additional insight into its historical dramas.
On average, Japanese citizens watch over three hours of television per day.  The average Japanese television set is turned on for eight hours and eight minutes per day (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 105).  54.9 percent of Japanese citizens surveyed by NHK (1995) watch at least three hours of television per day on average.  Generally speaking, Japan is a heavy television viewing nation.
Local broadcasting is relatively uncommon in Japan.  With a population approaching 200 million, there are barely more than 100 local affiliates of national television networks, with these local affiliates carrying the network schedule for 70 to 90 percent of the broadcast day (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 113).  Large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, certainly get a great amount of local broadcasting, whereas a city of more than 250,000 (Mito in Ibaraki prefecture) has no local television broadcasting, but retransmits a signal from Tokyo, 100 km away.
 Retransmission is the nature of Japanese television broadcasting.  Of the 1,502 VHF and 9,453 UHF television stations operating in 1992, NHK used 1,113 and 5,338 of them, respectively, to retransmit its signals (DeMente, 1992, p. 276).  The remaining stations were operated by 46 commercial broadcasting companies, with the majority owned by the “big five” commercial networks — NTV, TBS, Fuji, ABC and TV Tokyo (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 113).

Other traditional media

NHK was the only player in broadcasting until 1950.  Commercial radio broadcasts began in that year.  Growth continued steadily so that by the end of