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The Future of Television: Issues in the Online Society

JAMCO Online International Symposium

27th JAMCO Online International Symposium

December 2018 -

The Future of Television: Japan and Europe

Keynote Address
The Future of Television: Issues in the Online Society

Akira MURAKAMI
Coordinator

When we look at the future of television from a global perspective, broadcasting in Japan, with its dual structure of public and commercial, has similarities with that in Europe where public broadcasting exerts its presence, in contrast to the United States where commercial is overwhelmingly predominant. From an historical viewpoint as well, the BBC and other broadcasters in Europe have not infrequently made reference to Japanese approaches. When we consider the future of broadcasting, I believe it is worthwhile to look at both Japan and Europe.

The future of television in Japan is one pillar of the 27th JAMCO online symposium, “The Future of Television: Japan and Europe”, taking place in FY 2018, while another is the current situation with public broadcasting in Europe, which is deeply connected with this.

There is a side to this online symposium of being a continuation of theme of the 26th symposium which took place in the previous year, viz. the Internet Utilization of TV Stations: Situations and Issues Faced by Individual Countries. I do hope you will take a look at the previous symposium from the JAMCO website.

Looking back briefly, in the previous year, we featured the history, current situation and issues for the online initiatives of TV broadcasters, particularly among the public broadcasters in Britain, Germany, France, and the United States.

The online viewing of videos is growing in these countries, and we have changes, such as people watching less TV or opting to watch it at different periods. There are similar trends in Japan. The TV broadcasters in the major European countries of Britain, Germany and France are making considerable use of the internet in the form of online simulcasts and suchlike, which is furthering the convergence of broadcasting and communications.

Wholescale legislative changes took place in the noughties in Britain, Germany and France along with this convergence, while the funding arrangements for public broadcasting were the target of reform as well. Britain passed the Communications Act 2003, which could be referred to as a law for the blending of broadcasting and communications; and since 2016, people using BBC iPlayer are subject to the TV license fee, irrespective of whether they watch any programs live or by the catch-up mode. Legal changes in Germany in 2008 put the internet within the remit of public broadcasting, and this was followed by the adoption of a broadcast contributions fee scheme in 2013. In France, a 2007 legal amendment defined program streaming via telecommunications as a television service, and digital initiatives have been part of the remit of France Télévisions since 2009.

Japan has lagged far behind Europe, but discussion of the convergence of broadcasting and communications livened up in 2018. In June 2018, the government’s Regulatory Reform Promotion Council presented a set of recommendations focused on this convergence. In the following month, a panel of experts at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications produced a draft report endorsing regular online simulcasts of NHK TV programs on the proviso of changes to NHK’s receiving fees and so on.

In light of these moves, consideration of the future of broadcasting in Japan was made a pillar of this year’s online symposium, as I mentioned at the outset, bringing forth discussion that is spotlighting the current situation, issues and prospects for broadcasting in Japan from a range of different angles.

First up, Keiko Murakami, an executive researcher at the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, will report on the discussions that took place in Japan in the first half of this year under the title, Discussion and Issues Concerning a Future Vision of Broadcasting. Professor Takashi Uchiyama of the School of Cultural and Creative Studies at Aoyama Gakuin University will speak on the theme, “The Future of Television: Getting Back to the Basics of What Characterizes this Medium”, talking about its future by analyzing the distinguishing traits of different media, such as TV, newspapers, and the internet. I am looking forward to Professor Taro Komukai of Nihon University’s College of Risk Management speaking about the legal aspects of the convergence of broadcasting and communications.

Outside of Japan also, discussion is taking place in Europe on major systematic changes concerning public broadcasting fees, so another pillar will be discussion focusing on this debate which is very much involved with the future vision of broadcasting.

Yoshiko Nakamura, an executive researcher at the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, will talk about the future of public broadcasting in Europe, citing the changes to the public broadcasting fee arrangements in Denmark and Sweden, which she has covered in a paper entitled, Public Service Broadcasting in Europe: Accelerated Funding Reforms and Opaque Future. And I look forward to a paper from Jacquie Hughes of Ofcom, the regulatory body for broadcasting and communications in Britain. Her paper focuses on Ofcom’s regulation of the BBC.

The rise of the internet is posing major issues for television. The future of television lies beyond a mountain of a number of different issues. How do we resolve the issue of business schemes? In Europe, how will they press ahead with the reform of funding arrangements for the constantly changing public broadcasts? How do we talk about the public nature of the online world, which does not ground itself in scarcity, and how do we explain the scope of its remit? As television sets are about to get bigger with the advent of 4K and 8K ultra high-definition TV, can we meet the needs of users by providing the same content as that for smartphones that can fit in the palm of our hand? The above are mostly online problems of transmission from TV stations, but there are also repercussions of another dimension.

We could say they not limited to television, but are affecting newspapers and other media, and mass media in particular. The online society is one in which people at or involved at the scene can directly transmit information. US President Donald Trump transmits important problems on Twitter, which are followed by the media. There is also the argument about first reports of fires and incidents, how the media in this day and age should pick up what is being posted on social media. What is the role of the media in the online society? Reporting not passing through journalists’ hands might be economical and efficient, but it can lead to one-sided reporting, false reports and fake news, whether deliberate or otherwise, and lead to a growing mistrust of the media.

Although the aims of this symposium might be a little too wide, the future of television is deeply connected to the future of the media in the online society.

Akira MURAKAMI

Coordinator

Joined NHK 1972, working in the Political News Division, Television News Division, News Department, Programming Department.
Worked for NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute before retiring in 2006
Currently a journalist and member of the Japan National Press Club

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