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Broadcasters having to respond to changes in how people watch TV

JAMCO Online International Symposium

26th JAMCO Online International Symposium

December 2017 - June 2018

Internet Utilization of TV-Stations:Situations and Issues Faced by Individual Countries.

Keynote Address
Broadcasters having to respond to changes in how people watch TV

Takanobu Tanaka
Senior Manager, Media Research & Studies Division, Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)

“How much TV do you watch per day?”
The meaning of this ordinary question has become unclear. Until recently, it was taken for granted that “watching TV” meant watching programs made by broadcasters on a television receiver located in living and/or other rooms in a house. However, “Watching TV” now can mean watching on-demand services on a tablet PC away from home. Conversely, some people watch YouTube content on an internet-connected TV in the living room. We understand from those responsible for audience surveys that a growing number of people also regard these activities as “watching TV.”

In a changing media environment and with viewers’ definition of “watching TV” becoming blurred, how have broadcasters responded? Major public broadcasters in Europe and the US started distributing programs via the internet around ten years ago. Typically, viewers can watch live programs they missed via on-demand services. Such services have quite large numbers of users. European and US broadcasters are working hard to develop content using the internet because they early on anticipated the advent of the internet era and have established systems for it. From the mid-1990s through the 2000s, broadcasters promoted laws for developing services on the internet. They have also striven to revise TV license fee systems, which were based on receiver ownership.

In Europe and the US, where broadcasting has been converged with communications, multi-platform competition is intensifying between content creators other than TV broadcasters. Broadcasting used to be a special presence that used a limited part of the spectrum. In a multi-platform world, however, broadcaster content and other content compete in the same arena. Broadcasters are striving to revise systems in response to the internet era and making their internet services high quality. How broadcast media can boost their presence without being buried under burgeoning content, and whether public broadcasters can leverage their “public” status online, are also issues.

Japanese broadcasters are also under pressure to respond to the changing media environment. I believe experiences overseas, including simultaneous broadcasting and internet distribution, on-demand viewing of missed programs, and fee structures for viewing content via the internet, will be a useful reference for Japan. This year’s JAMCO Online International Symposium will feature reports about four countries: the UK, France, Germany, and the US.

The UK has adopted a dual structure with the BBC, a public broadcaster, on the one hand and commercial broadcasters on the other. The BBC started a full-fledged internet service in 1997, merging its existing website with BBC Online. In 2007, it launched its BBC iPlayer service, through which virtually all BBC TV and radio programs can be watched/listened to via the internet. The BBC strives to read the changes in the media environment and focus one step ahead of them. I will report on the situation in the UK, including the BBC.

In France, France 3 in 1993 became the world’s first public broadcaster to launch free distribution of video news via the internet. In 2005, France Télévisions SA launched a VOD service. In 2015, France Télévisions appointed a CEO who had worked for a major telecom company. The company is working hard to develop combined broadcasting and telecom services. Tetsuro Nitta, who is responsible for French media surveys and research at NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, will report on France.

In Germany, the spotlight is on the major overhaul to the country’s TV license fee system. With the number of people who watch TV via the internet growing, it was decided that the burden could not be shared fairly via a license fee system that was based on possession of a TV receiver. Germany therefore switched to a system in which households are charged a standard amount regardless of whether they own a receiver. The system came into force in January 2013. Yusuke Sugiuchi, who is responsible for German media surveys and research at the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, will report on Germany’s public broadcasting system.

America’s broadcasting industry has developed focusing mainly on commercial broadcasting. In contrast to Europe, public broadcasting is small scale and there is no license fee system. Funding comes mainly from corporate sponsorship and government subsidies. America’s public broadcasters have also developed internet services. Aya Fujito, who is responsible for US media surveys and research at NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, will report on America.

In Japan, broadcasting law distinguishes between “broadcasting” and “communication.” However, the experiences of broadcasters in Europe and the US, where the boundaries between the two have virtually disappeared, should serve to point the way when considering the direction Japanese television should take. This idea is the basis on which the theme of this year’s JAMCO Online International Symposium was selected. We hope it will be useful in the debate about broadcasting reforms currently being promoted in Japan.

Takanobu Tanaka

Senior Manager, Media Research & Studies Division, Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)

B.A., Sophia University, Department of Foreign Language
M.A., University of Leeds, Studies of International Society and Culture
Ph.D., Nagoya University, International Development

Working at NHK as a broadcast journalist since 1988, moved to NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute in 2011. Incumbent since 2017. Main research themes include disaster broadcasts, international cooperation and global trends on public media.

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