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JAMCO Online International Symposium

19th JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 1 to February 28, 2010

International Exchange in TV Drama Productions

Keynote Address

Yoshihiro Oto
Professor, Department of Journalism, Faculty of Humanities, Sophia University, Tokyo.

Quite some time has passed since Japan’s popular culture, represented by animation, manga, karaoke and video games, won acceptance and recognition in other countries. Even in Japan, people have come to know the term “cool Japan” that expresses the admiration its pop culture receives overseas. Notwithstanding the prominence Japanese pop culture enjoys, TV drama unfortunately failed to gain the level of international acceptance realized in other areas, due to the fact that Japanese TV program production is a self-sufficient system that does not require overseas markets for business opportunities.
Needless to say, however, TV programs are effective tools in promoting cultural exchange on the international scale. The assistance JAMCO and a number of other public-service organizations provide to boost opportunities for Japanese-made TV programs to be accepted in other countries is motivated by the country’s incentive to promote its culture. Among the various genres of TV programs, drama is a content category that is likely to enjoy extended international recognition, since such programs are based on plots that are self-contained in themselves. A typical example is Oshin, the drama series that NHK produced in 1983 and continues to be broadcast overseas to this day. However, it must be noted that overseas broadcasts of Oshin and other Japanese TV dramas were the result more of public-sector assistance to foster cultural exchange, than an effort to stimulate business-driven distribution. However, interest in overseas marketing of Japanese TV drama productions as a business enterprise has grown amid the developments in media markets both in Japan and abroad in recent years. Demand for more active participation in the international video market is on the rise.
Attention must also be paid to the fact that, in addition to the drive to disseminate modern Japanese culture actively through TV drama, socio-political need to do the same grew simultaneously with advances in globalization.

In the latter half of the 1990s, multi-channel broadcasting developed rapidly in East Asian nations. This development is attributed to the ease of political tensions following the collapse of the Cold War order, economic growth and rising income levels in East Asia that resulted in the region’s emergence as a growth center in the global economy, and advances in media technologies represented by digitization. In face of these changes, the South Korean broadcasting industry exported its TV dramas to Asian nations where multi-channel broadcasting began to spread, triggering the “Hallyu (Korean Wave)” drama boom. Although the boom is evidently the product of the sense of cultural affinity that Korean TV drama offers to the audiences of other Asian nations, combined with the quality of Korean drama production that is sufficiently competitive in international markets, an important factor underlying the Hallyu boom was the outstanding cost competitiveness of these productions from the standpoint of the importers. The Korean drama boom has spurred similar promotion of TV dramas produced in Taiwan and mainland China, which have been dubbed “Hua liu” (Chinese Wave) in imitation of the Hallyu boom.
Being one of the leading video content markets in the world, Japan was quite naturally a very promising export market for these exporters. The success of Korean dramas was clearly brought on by their success in the Japanese market.
On the other hand, TV program production and distribution system in Japan had been established on a self-contained business model of recovering program production costs from single (or several) broadcasts in the domestic market.
With the changes in the media environment since the 1990s through growth in the number of media and channels, digitization and market globalization, diversification of TV program business became increasingly necessary. As a natural course of events, it has become necessary to examine the issues that underlie Japan’s TV business.
The Hallyu boom posed a question to the Japanese TV industry – will Japanese programs be competitive in the international video content market?
Japanese TV programs are now being perceived and examined as media products to be marketed overseas, separate and independent of international cultural exchange and of public-sector assistance mentioned earlier. Furthermore, promotion as business is a mission that Japanese TV business had long procrastinated to address.
It was under such circumstances that the International Drama Festival started in Tokyo in 2007, as an experimental program to explore the potential of Japanese TV dramas in the global market through cooperation between the government and the broadcasting industry. It presented the Japanese media industry the opportunity to see how TV program distributors from neighboring nations, as well as those operating in international markets, will perceive Japanese dramas and what kind of response these dramas will receive overseas, as well as what counterreaction will take place inside Japan vis–a-vis the foreign response, when they are promoted for marketing in the international video content market. Furthermore, it spotlighted whether they were aware of the potential of these productions, as well as the issues they present. It is no exaggeration to say that the startup of international media business in this manner is part and parcel to the political and economic developments in Northeast Asia, as well as those in the international arena.
Quite naturally, these developments are of great interest not only for researchers in the fields of media communication and international communication but also for those in the fields of political science, economics and sociology.
In past JAMCO symposia, international distribution of Japanese TV dramas had been taken up a number of times for discussion. However, many of the points of discussion centered on the cultural value and significance of Japanese TV dramas from the perspective of international communication, such as how foreign audiences will perceive and accept Japanese culture through its drama productions. In the latest JAMCO symposium, I expect the discussion to focus on the international marketing of Japanese TV dramas, vis-a-vis comparison with the recent state of the Korean drama boom, while paying due attention to the change in international media business in recent years. What value will Japanese TV dramas offer in the international video content market? Also, what potential do they have in marketing and distribution? In addition to these questions, the future in international TV drama distribution and the issues involved will be examined and debated by both media researchers and media business representatives. I look forward to people both in Japan and other countries taking advantage of this Web symposium and participating in the discussions.

Yoshihiro Oto

Professor, Department of Journalism, Faculty of Humanities, Sophia University, Tokyo.

Born in Sapporo in 1961, he completed his doctoral program at Sophia University's Graduate School of Humanities. After working for the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, Research Institute, he became lecturer at the Department of Journalism, Faculty of Humanities, Sophia University. After serving as assistant professor at Sophia University and later guest researcher at Columbia University, he was appointed to the current position in 2007. His field of expertise is media and information society. His work includes "Modern Developments in the Broadcasting Media"(New Media, 2007).

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