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Overseas Program Distribution and Country Brand Power

JAMCO Online International Symposium

25th JAMCO Online International Symposium

December 2016 - June 2017

The Current State and Challenges of International Broadcasting in Key Countries

Keynote Address
Overseas Program Distribution and Country Brand Power

Takanobu Tanaka
Senior Researcher, NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute

Japan’s private and public sectors are promoting distribution of Japan content abroad under the slogan of “Cool Japan.” The content is quite diverse—manga and anime, fashion, Japanese cuisine, and so on—and broadcast program content is one nucleus within it. The sales of Japanese broadcasting content are steadily increasing and its value continues to hit record highs.

Japan is not the only country pushing overseas expansion of its broadcasting content. In September 2016 I participated in a conference of media specialists held in London considering the future of broadcasting. Representatives of the BBC, Sky and other UK broadcasters as well as from NBC Universal, which distributed the worldwide hit Downton Abbey, from Netflix, an American OTT content provider, and other media organizations were engaged in intense discussion of how content can most successfully be offered for export.

Why should we try to expand content outside our borders? The first motive to be mentioned is probably its political usefulness, as symbolized by the term “soft power.” Enhancing a country’s presence and its image in international society, and deepening understanding of one’s country can be a source of national strength no less powerful than armed might. The economic motives are also significant. For example, if a drama program becomes a hit abroad, the returns include not only the direct marketing revenue but sale of related goods and ripple effects such as increase of inbound tourism with people visiting location sites.

There was a time when broadcasting content flowed mainly one way from advanced countries like the United States to developing countries, but today there is much more variety in both the senders and the receivers of content. The market has grown much more diverse as well, offering not only broadcasting rights for finished programs but increasingly diversified content formats, production methods, and sales methods such as drama remake rights. In the past, moreover, programs were mainly bought and sold by broadcasters, but today, as exemplified by Netflix, it is possible to provide content across national borders via the Internet. Advances in information and communication technologies have brought about great changes in the media environment that are accelerating the international distribution of content.

With this changed environment in mind, our latest JAMCO symposium presents professionals and researchers from the United Kingdom, Turkey, China, Korea, and Japan to report on distribution of broadcasting content in their countries, looking at the historical background, types of services, sources and targets of distribution, methods, and strategies and motives.

The United Kingdom was probably the pioneer in world distribution of broadcasting. Since the BBC began international broadcasting in 1932 in the form of radio broadcasts to the colonies in the British Empire, it has conducted broadcasts in many different languages. It also launched a 24-hour international news channel on the occasion of the Gulf War in 1991. The BBC also founded a for-profit affiliate, BBC World Wide, in order to market BBC content abroad. We have asked an expert from the Asia division of BBC World Wide to present a report at the upcoming JAMCO symposium.

International broadcasting from countries other than those in the West is also increasing. One of them is Turkey, to be represented at the symposium. International broadcasting in Turkey is operated by the state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT). In 1992, TRT established TRT-Int for Turkish-language broadcasting in Europe and Central Asia, and it has expanded its broadcasting services in stages to other areas; in 2016 it began international television broadcasts in English. We will have a Turkish university specialist report about the purposes and strategies of the policy of strengthening international broadcasting that has been promoted under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is said to exercise strong influence over the media.

What about China? Anyone who travels abroad is aware that there are almost always Chinese channels available in their hotel. The main international broadcasts are the 24-hour English news channel run by CCTV. CCTV’s international broadcasting, into which the Chinese government pours an immense amount of funding, is invested with the propaganda function of enhancing China’s image abroad. The symposium will feature a report from a specialist from China who is currently teaching at Hokkaido University.

The Republic of Korea has KBS World, run by the public broadcaster KBS, and Arirang TV, operated by a foundation established by the Korean government. They do not benefit, however, from the kind of lavish funding available in China. Meanwhile, all-out efforts by the public and private sector, with full government support, are being made to market the popular “Korean dramas” and other Korean programming in other countries. We will have a report by an authority on overseas marketing of Korean content.

In Japan, the need to make Japan’s voice more widely heard worldwide began to be expressed mainly under government initiative in the early 2000s, and the current “Cool Japan strategy” is defined as a strategy for boosting economic growth. A specialist who teaches at Aoyama Gakuin University will analyze the overseas distribution of Japan’s broadcasting content and the issues it faces.

One of the keys determining the success or failure of international content distribution is certainly “national branding.” The United Kingdom pursued this type of strategy in the late 1990s under its “Cool Britannia” catchphrase. The “Cool Japan” slogan, likewise, can be seen as part of efforts to construct a Japan national brand, and similar efforts are going on in many other countries as well.

Conditions and issues for content distribution naturally differ from one country to another. The content that best serves a country’s efforts as well as the strategy adopted to market it will also differ. In other words, a look at the overseas content distribution of a country likely helps us understand the outline of that country’s “national brand.”

At any rate, the political and economic importance of the voices of a country through the media, especially television, is growing, and the significance of understanding the current status, objectives, and future prospects of international content distribution is great. The countries introduced at this JAMCO Symposium could be said to be in a rival relationship with Japan, but we look forward to this opportunity for any kind of information exchange that may contribute to better production of content and the enrichment of the culture of broadcasting.

Takanobu Tanaka

Senior Researcher, NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute

Senior Researcher, 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. Main research themes include disaster broadcasts, international cooperation and global trends on public media.

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