Japanese Media Overview

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Japanese media overview

Physically, the mass media in Japan are quite similar to those in any developed nation, although perhaps somewhat more advanced. In organizational structure, however, Japanese media are unique. Individual elements of the Japanese media mix may resemble counterparts in other nations, but the combination is purely Japanese.
The primary characteristics of Japanese mass media are the influence of the national daily newspapers and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nihon Hoso Kyokai, or NHK) and the relative lack of localism.

The importance of newspapers

Japanese media are dominated by five national daily newspapers. The Asahi, Mainichi, Nihon Keizai, Sankei and Yomiuri Shimbun (newspaper) all publish both a morning and an evening edition, with total circulation of more than 40 million copies per day (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 53). Of the world’s ten highest daily circulation newspapers, the top three are Japanese, with the fourth highest having a circulation of just over one-third of the circulation of the Yomiuri Shimbun (The United States is not represented in this list) (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 54). It is not surprising that Japan has the highest ratio of newspapers to people in the world, with 578 copies per day for every 1000 people (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 52).
Local newspapers are smaller than the nationals, and many are published only once or twice a week, even in cities with populations above 100,000. However, the national newspapers all have regional sections.
The national daily newspapers are also involved in other media. All of the commercial television networks are either affiliated with or owned by a national newspaper (Cooper-Chen, 1997, p. 115). They are also heavily involved in radio broadcasting, although their presence is less influential.
Japanese book and magazine readership are also quite impressive. In addition, Japan has a thriving comic book, or manga, industry. Japanese comic books are for all ages and all types of people. One can see people reading manga in restaurants, coffee shops, trains, buses, even schools and offices. Sales of manga for 1984 totaled 297 billion yen (US$ 1.2 billion), although this figure does not include any of the income from manga-related products (Schodt, 1986, p. 138).

Nature of television broadcasting

There are five major commercial and two public television networks in Japan. The public networks, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) general and education, are funded by annual license fees paid for every television set in the country. Although NHK is an independent entity, it enjoys a close and favored relationship with the government.
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