27th JAMCO Online International Symposium
December 2018 - March 2019
The Future of Television: Japan and Europe
The Internet and the Broadcasting System
- 1-1 The Spread of the Internet
People’s behavior is being rapidly changed by the social penetration of the internet. Take for example, mobile phones with an online connection, which appeared twenty years ago in 1999. Prior to that, nobody constantly checked any messages or information reaching a mobile terminal. Today, however, just about everyone on a train is peering into a smartphone. If anything, probably only a minority do not feel inconvenienced if they happen to leave home without a smartphone or mobile. The internet provides us with all kinds of information, and we also purchase goods and services from it.
The internet is a versatile means of transmission that can equally carry any kind of information, provided a certain degree of speed can be secured. It’s technically easy to share terminals and transmission routes when there are common data formats. All kinds of information can be carried on the same network. This is happening given the efficiency in mutually using uniform technical standards.
Broadcast programs are already being transmitted in a range of different formats via the internet, and people are commonly using it to stream and share videos. Furthermore, with the evolution in recent times of the Internet of Things (IoT), linking vehicles, home appliances, industrial machines, and suchlike to the internet, there is the prospect of information being exchanged between everything online.
- 1-2 The Convergence of Communications and Broadcasting
Broadcasting, on the other hand, has devolved as a medium based on its own means of transmission – the airwaves. This derives from the commencement and spread of broadcasts, when the technology would only stream content to a large number of people simultaneously at once by wireless communications. Under the provisions of Japan’s Broadcasting Act prior to the 2010 amendment, broadcasting was defined as “the act of transmitting through wireless communications content intended to be received by the public.” Although it is a form of telecommunications, it has occupied a special place from the outset.
However, the growing use of the internet has made it possible to transmit broadcast programs online and stream videos and sound in real time, providing what is termed the “convergence of communications and broadcasting.” The 2010 amendment of the Broadcasting Act changed the definition of broadcasting from “transmitting through wireless communications” to “transmitting through telecommunications” in light of this trend, broadening it to telecommunications as a whole.
- 1-3 The Purpose of the Broadcasting Act
Article 1 of the Broadcasting Act states the purpose of the Act as follows:
It is clear from these provisions that the purpose of broadcasting systems is (1) the securing of the means of transmission (ensuring broadcasts reach the public in a reliable manner); and (2) suitability of content (the autonomous provision of fair and reliable content). This purpose must always serve as a guide when we think about regulating broadcasts. The following obligations are imposed on broadcasters for the sake of achieving this purpose (see Table 1). Obligations for the provision of broadcasts are stipulated for securing of the means of transmission, and others for the suitability of content.
Table 1. Obligations concerning broadcasters prescribed by Japan’s Broadcasting Act (Summary)
* Article 81, paragraph 1 imposes the following obligations on NHK:
(i)It must strive “to satisfy the needs of the public and to contribute to the improvement of cultural standards by broadcasting good-quality, rich programs”;
(ii)“Beyond broadcast programs targeting the entire country”, it must “provide broadcast programs designed for local regions”; and
(iii)It must “assist in the preservation of the distinguished cultural legacy of Japan and the development and spreading of emerging culture.”
Source: Komukai, Tarō; Jōhōhō Nyūmon (Dai 4 han) Dejitaru Nettowaaku no Hōritsu (Introduction to information law: Legislation for digital networks, 4th ed.), NTT Publishing Co., Ltd., 2018.
2 Transmission Routes and Content
- 2-1 Falling Scarcity
Many policies have been taken to ensure the supply of essential services for the public livelihood. When broadcasts were spreading, the amount of content and available frequencies were limited, despite the very strong need for audio and video. Broadcasting Act is a legal system in which there was originally a scarcity of both transmission routes and content; it was created so that the broadcasts keenly sought by the public reached as many people as possible.
The scarcity of transmission routes of the kind imagined when broadcasts were spreading has basically disappeared in this day and age. If the purpose is the mere securing of such routes, it depends largely on speed and reliability whether to use the digital network or the air waves. The conventional system of broadcasts is premised on the use of the air waves, because they were a precise means for simultaneously delivering information to the general public. Over-the-air broadcasts do not have any of the network impediments caused by a deluge of access, which means they excel in major disasters and other emergencies. However, online interaction is being increasingly harnessed in such instances, so if anything, we should look to securing access to information through a diversity of transmission routes. Furthermore, we can say that the scarcity of content no longer exists either, given the vast and varied range of content provided online.
Nevertheless, a degree of regulation is still deemed necessary for broadcasting in this day and age. The reason for this is probably the particular social influence of broadcasts and expectations of a commensurate public nature.
- 2-2 Broadcasting’s Influence
At this point of time, broadcasting, as represented by terrestrial telecasts, possesses a special influence compared to other media. While some people have pointed out that youngsters in particular are spending more time on the internet compared to watching television, other media cannot match TV’s reach for the same content. The public as a whole perceives any person appearing on TV as famous. As a medium, it continues to have a considerable influence.
Moreover, television in some cases exerts an unconsciously strong effect by working on the passive and unguarded parts of people in contrast to newspapers and other print media, which are actively read. Contrived stories and fake news are strictly criticized, given that so many believe what is aired on television.
The current influence of broadcasting comes not only from a scarcity of channels; it is also helped by cultivated brand images and the trust coming from the legal obligation for suitable content. The content that broadcasters provide can earn a degree of support and trust when it is also made available online. However, the widespread penetration of TV sets among the public and the limited number of channels are still the most important elements. Let’s say purely for the sake of speculation, that broadcasters merely became one type of provider for online content. If so, they probably would not be able to maintain the influence they possess now. The airwaves certainly remain important for broadcasting.
An Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry study group on problems in broadcasting raised three issues in its second set of proposals published in FY2018: (1) public broadcasting in the new era; (2) effective use of frequencies with a view to future broadcasting services; and (3) the future of satellite broadcasts. Transmission routes are a major point in all of these issues.
In the forthcoming discussions, we should perhaps note the shared awareness that has come about on the question of whether certain frequencies should be set aside for broadcasting, or whether they should be set aside for other networks. The keen interest in the valuable bands of frequencies set aside for broadcasting amid the growing need for access to wireless networks is a matter of common knowledge.
In these circumstances, the basis for allowing broadcasting to use these frequencies, the need for airwaves for specific uses, will be more rigorously questioned. There was hardly any discussion about need for setting aside airwaves for broadcasting when transmission routes and content were both scarce. However, the need for maintaining the system of broadcasting will have to be spelled out clearly in the age of the diversity of networks and the flood of content.
- 2-3 New Likely Roles
In recent times, as pointed out by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry study group, we have the serious impact of so-called “fake news”, the news of a groundless and incendiary nature being spread into the public domain via the internet without any checks on its veracity. The information spread on the social media is seen by many people, and is often widely believed before one realizes it. With the internet, we have more information of a dubious nature and more hate speech about particular individuals or groups.
Moreover, concern is also being expressed about information being increasingly customized by the choices made by the receiver, which is producing more people who only touch the information that suits them, shutting themselves up in their own shells and directing their attention solely at the things that interest them.
For democratic governments in pluralistic modern societies to function properly, it is necessary, to a certain extent, to provide basic information, which should be shared among the members of those societies. The existence of reasonably reliable media is deemed as necessary for this. However, freedom of expression suffers when this is brought about through the compulsion of the state.
Where program service rules and other rules concerning broadcasting content should fit in is a constitutionally contentious issue, and the predominant view is that they should not be the basis for direct regulation. The Broadcasting Act also provides guarantees of autonomy for the purpose of the freedom of expression, so that it will not be impinged upon. On the other hand, broadcasters, with their responsibility toward society, have striven at their own discretion to provide suitable content. From the outset there have been contradictions inherent in the law, which wants binding rule for impartiality and truth in broadcasting, as well as assurances for its autonomy. The social influence and public nature of broadcasts have been maintained through this delicate balancing of rules.
We will certainly have more diversity in the distribution and transmission routes for information, which will diminish the importance of the current over-the-air broadcasts even further. However, broadcasting at this period of time has social support and a considerable social influence, and is an important media option that the public can safely turn to. Naturally enough, we also need to use frequencies effectively and seek out new services. However, if anything, it is vital that broadcasting better fulfills and draws attention to its role as a reliable medium, rather than add interactive services of the kind that are already available on the internet.
Professor of College of Risk Management
Graduated from Waseda University (School of Political Science and Economics) 1987. PhD. (Law) from Chuo University.
InfoCom Research Inc. (Senior vice president and senior consultant in research on the legal system); Visiting Associate Professor at Waseda University.
Professor, Nihon University (College of Risk Management) since April 2016. From the early 1990s, has been studying the legal issues arising from the evolution in information technologies.
Major publications: (in Japanese)
Jōhōhō Nyūmon (Dai 4 han) Dejitaru Nettowaaku no Hōritsu (Introduction to information law: Legislation for digital networks, 4th ed.), NTT Publishing Co., Ltd., 2018.
Jōhōtsūshin-hōsei no Ronten-bunseki (Analysis of the contentious issues in the legal system for information and communications), (Co-author), Shojihomu Co., Ltd., 2015.
Nyūmon: Anzen to Jōhō (Introduction to safety and information), (Co-author), Seibundo Publishing Co., Ltd., 2015.
Kaiteiban Dejitaru Forenjikku Jiten (Encyclopedia of digital forensics, revised ed.), (Co-author), JUSE Press, Ltd., 2014.
Hyōgen no Jiyū II: Jōkyō kara (Freedom of expression II: The situation), (Co-author), Shogakusya, 2011.
Jissenteki e-disukabari (Practical e-discoveries), (Co-editor), NTT Publishing Co., Ltd., 2010.
Puraibashii: Kojinjōhō-hogo no Shinkadai (Privacy: New issues in protecting personal information), (Co-author), Shojihomu Co., Ltd., 2010.
Yubikitasu de Tsukuru Jōhō-shakai-kiban (The foundations of the information society created by ubiquitous computing), (Co-author), University of Tokyo Press, 2006.
Intaanetto-shakai to Hō (Dai 2 han) (The internet society and the law, 2nd ed.), (Co-author), Shinsei-sha Co., Ltd., 2006.
Saibaa-sekyuritee no Hō to Seisaku (The law and policies for cybersecurity) (Co-author), NTT Publishing Co., Ltd., 2004.
Hasshin Denwa-bangō Hyōji to Puraibashii (Privacy when the phone shows the caller’s phone number), (Co-author), NTT Publishing Co., Ltd., 1998.