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JAMCO Online International Symposium

20th JAMCO Online International Symposium

March to August, 2012

The Great East Japan Earthquake: Japanese TV Coverage and Foreign Reception

Closing Remarks

Akira Murakami
Executive Managing Director, Japan Media Communication Center

What did the Great East Japan Earthquake mean to the Japanese broadcasters? How did the broadcasters contribute to the evacuation and rescue of the affected people? How has it contributed to the recovery? What were or were not reported on the tsunami and nuclear disaster? Many broadcasters, media researchers and journalists are working to answer these questions. This year, as a platform for international television contents exchange, Japan Media Communication Center (JAMCO) hosted a symposium on how the earthquake was broadcasted to and was received by the rest of the world.

Early reports are extremely important in case of earthquake and tsunami. Clearly initial response holds the greatest importance. First, emergency alarms, early warnings and information on earthquake and tsunami are crucial to the survival of people who are or will be affected. Second, reports on the affected areas are necessary for rescue missions including attempts to establish lifelines and medical and food supplies. Third, reports on recovery efforts from mid- to long-term perspectives are meaningful too. International version of the disaster reports overlaps with these efforts. However, if the reports are not properly edited, they may be difficult to understand or even cause misunderstandings among the foreign audiences. In that sense, the NHK’s decision to “try to convey the big picture ” toward overseas audiences was quite appropriate. Its careful reports must have contributed to greater supports from overseas.

However, Tokyo correspondents in our symposium have mentioned that, “while the calm nature of the announcer’s tone did give audience the sense of stability and security, the “composed reports” also raised doubts about their reliability. Whether the “calm nature of tone” and “composed reports” directly affected the “reliability of reports” is a point that must be reviewed by comparing the actual reports and the facts. However, if “calmness” and “composure” did give rise to impressions of “doubts about reliability,” there could have been an issue of “station image,” as most of the initial reports came from the Tokyo studio, which may have lacked the reality that the affected areas or stations closer to those areas had.

Concerning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, panelists have mentioned “in retrospect, only limited information were provided,” “reports that came with comments like ‘it is safe for the moment’ or ‘it is not an immediate problem’ made audience anxious” and “their description of the meltdown changed frequently.” Many people would agree with them on how they felt about the lack of information on the details and effects of the nuclear accident.

It has been mentioned that “the government lost people’s trust as many began to wonder whether the government was telling the truth or not”. The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) made a strict assessment saying, “the government failed to assume a worst case scenario and provide information to protect people’s safety from it. It also failed to provide safety through prompt information disclosure.

” This online symposium included vivid reports from both the sender of international reports and the receiver, or the Tokyo correspondents from foreign media. As a platform for discussions on sending information overseas, I believe the symposium has succeeded in depicting the international aspects of the “3.11 reports,” including some challenges and questions for the future.

In order to contribute to the disaster prevention by developing countries through Japan’s experience, the JAMCO will continue to provide international version of the earthquake-related programs free of charge.

Lastly, we would like to pray for those who have lost their lives in the earthquake and the recovery of the affected areas. We would also like to express our deepest gratitude to the panelists, discussants and all who have visited the symposium website. Thank you.

Akira Murakami

Executive Managing Director, Japan Media Communication Center

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