Some TV Links

肥留間正明の芸能斜め斬り フジは制作費5%カット テレビ局の大不況
(“Hiruma Masaaki’s Slanted Take on the Entertainment World: Fuji has cut production budgets 5%, TV’s Great Depression”)

If you thought that Japanese TV could not get less ambitious, I beg you to flip the switch and take a look at what passes for Prime Time. The beloved “variety show” hinges on its stable of “personalities,” and TV stations evidently can no longer afford anyone approaching funny. Dandy Sakano seemed like a low point a few years ago, but he’s Oe Kenzaburo in comparison to today’s hooligans.

But enough of my objective commentary. Professional TV critic Hiruma’s got some facts for us:

• TV stations are having a hard-time finding sponsors, and program sponsors want more on-air time for their products
• A decade ago, program success meant a 20% share. Now a passing grade is 12% and dropping.
• Hiruma blames low quality of TV for the drop in viewership. (Maybe Japanese networks should, I dunno, consider reforming their conception of “programming” that has not changed since the late 1950s and filming in Beta-cams that have not changed since the late 1980s…) But here we get the negative feedback loop: lower viewers means lower budgets, lower budgets means worse talent, worse talent means worse shows, worse shows means lower viewership, und so weiter.
• Variety shows are using “announcers” to host shows, since they are salaried and cost less than hiring talent from production companies.
• Youth are not watching TV.
• Television station salaries are still some of the highest in Japan, while programming production is being fished out to companies that only pay employees ¥2 mil a year.

Recently, I have taken to watch a lot of Discovery Channel programming through cable. Mythbusters and Man vs. Wild seem like perfect models for Japanese network TV, but I guess you would have to actually find individuals with interesting skills and Japanese talent agencies don’t really do the “skill” thing. Oh wait, they have that girl that eats a lot and that other guy who is half-Japanese…

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

Many may have read this essay by now, but I wonder how much its lessons apply to Japan. J-youth are watching less and less TV, but is there a concrete place where that energy is going besides 2-ch? Japanese Wikipedia isn’t bad, but has yet to reach a peak of activity. Is the idea of “creating public content for free” with your leisure time even an idea that exists within Japan? How could something that doesn’t cost money be worth anything?

Also:

“Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. “

This is certainly not true in Japan. You have to be a 40 year-old white-collar employee to have ever seen a real-deal personal computer. I have come to the conclusion that the cell phone in Japan is not a sign of advanced technology, but a “patch” to bring internet functions to those who cannot get access to computers. That is how it works in the Third World, why not with the “refugees of affluence” (豊か難民) of Japanese Gen-Y?

W. David MARX
May 1, 2008