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JAMCO Online International Symposium

23rd JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2015 - October2015

Audience Perception of Japanese TV Programs in Asia and the Middle East.

Closing Address

Akira Murakami
Former Executive Managing Director, Japan Media Communication Center

This 23rd JAMCO Online International Symposium took up the theme of Audience Perception of Japanese TV Programs in Asia and the Middle East. It has been meaningful not only for revealing how well Japanese TV programs are understood in Asia and the Middle East but also, with respect to Japan’s international contributions and the transmission of information from Japan, in highlighting the importance of the English language barrier when considering the broadcast of Japanese TV programs to the developing countries.

For this survey, we asked researchers in Japan and abroad to report on programs in the educational and documentary genres. The group of Takayuki Konno, an assistant professor of Meisei University, Makiko Kishi, a special lecturer of Meiji University, and Professor Kenichi Kubota of Kansai University visited Jordan (Amman), Uzbekistan (Tashkent) and the Philippines (Bulacan) and showed JAMCO’s English language versions of educational programs to people involved in education in each place to investigate how the local children and teachers would understand and respond to Japanese TV programs on educational and everyday lifestyle themes. One survey concerned an educational program, relatively free from cultural influence, in which scientific experiments were performed.
The local experts thought this program was very usable.They said that the familiar content and methods were easy to understand and the rich use of camera techniques made the visuals exciting. On the other hand, it was suggested that careful consideration would be required before using a program which featured ladybirds in lessons in Jordan because many teachers and pupils there have never seen the insect. There were also curricular issues, with questions raised about how this program could be fitted into the lessons.
From Hanoi National University of Education, where educational programs made by JAMCO are in regular educational use, we received a report on the educational effects of Japanese educational programs. The report explained that the students do grasp the programs’ themes correctly and have the greatest interest in science programs.

Regarding documentaries, Takanobu Tanaka, Senior Researcher of the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute showed TV programs on themes related to the Great East Japan Earthquake broadcasted on international broadcasting service of NHK to students taking class of English on the campus of a national university in Bangkok, Thailand and performed questionnaire survey and group interviews. They appreciated these programs treating disaster risk reduction, but the students were divided on concrete evaluations such as whether they would want to continue watching program. Rather than those with theoretical content, it was found that programs which prompted empathy with the people featured were the better received. The use of technical terms about disaster risk reduction to Thai students, who were not native speakers of English was an issue. It was suggested that there is need to devise performance techniques, for example introducing animation or computer graphics.

Hearing these reports, it does appear that international versions must be made with special attention to the needs of viewers in developing countries. It is surely appropriate to add an explanation about ladybirds instead of simply assuming that these insects can be seen in every country. The technical terms of disaster reduction should, wherever possible, be explained with well-chosen words and, as proposed, through graphics.

The research this time examined programs in genres in which the significance of religious, ethnic, historical and other cultural gaps, including political ones, is relatively small. It has again been made very clear, however, as is only natural, that differences of language do stand in the way of program understanding.
In the case of educational programs for older students, it was stated in Jordan that the English was too difficult to follow and translation into Arabic was proposed. From Vietnam, it was observed that Vietnamese dubbing and subtitles would be helpful for the pupils’ understanding.

Also regarding documentaries, the English language barrier was evident from observations about the difficulty of the English vocabulary and speed of English speech.
To the extent that this English language barrier exists in the non-English speaking world, it does impose limits on how much influence the English versions of Japanese programs can have regardless of whether they are distributed to developing countries or broadcast on the international English language service. In this regard, I sense that JAMCO needs to place more weight on the production of local language editions that can be properly understood by the great bulk of viewers in developing countries.
I had the opportunity myself in 2014 to visit Uzbekistan, from which we heard a report this time, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for surveys and in each case, there were problems of producing local language versions. The low diffusion of English is major factor, but I have learned that in some countries the economic factors may be even more important. I have heard of countries seeking sponsorship for or the costs of local language productions. JAMCO are providing subsidies for localization expenses for trial in some areas and I believe that this is going to become ever more important.

At the closing of this symposium, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Takayuki Konno of Meisei University and Takanobu Tanaka of the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute for your central roles in planning this event, and to everyone who has made presentations, joined in the discussions and accessed this website.


Akira Murakami

Former Executive Managing Director, Japan Media Communication Center

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