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Whither thou goest, ‘terebi’?

A police officer stands on duty as workers walk from Kokusai-tenjijo Station during the morning rush hour, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo, Japan, July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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japantoday– The arrival of television in Japan was not welcomed by everyone. In the Feb 2, 1957 issue of the long-defunct magazine Shukan Tokyo, a famous journalist and critic named Soichi Oya set off a storm of debate when he wrote, “The most evolved mass media, radio and television, can be said to deploying a campaign to transform Japan’s entire 100 million into imbeciles.”

If Oya was correct almost 65 years ago, might Japan’s younger generation now be showing signs that they’re becoming smarter? Nikkan Gendai (July 15) reported that when NHK released its 2020 survey on how people spend their time, while around 80% of Japanese replied that yes, they watch television on a daily basis, over half of the respondents in their teens and 20s said they had “stopped watching TV.”

NHK’s Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducts the survey every five years. It also incorporates other activities in which people spend their time, and its findings are generally accepted as highly reliable.

According to a syndicated article in President Online, the percentage of people who say they watch at least some television in the course of their day, which five years ago was 75%, this year showed a drop of 6%. The decline was particularly sharp among respondents in the 10 to 15 year age bracket, among whom only 56% said they watch TV. In the 16 to 19-year bracket, the figure was even lower at 47%. And among those in their 20s, the response was slightly higher at 51%.

Considering the sharp differences in viewing when compared with older age groups, analysts are pointing to a notable trend toward terebi-banare (quitting TV) among younger Japanese.

So what are the youngsters doing with their time then? Well, look at these figures: While 45% of Japanese of all ages said they use the internet, including SNSs and viewing video sites, in the 16-19 crowd this figure was 80%; for those in their 20s, 73%; and for those in their 30s, 63%.

Compared to 95% who watch TV among people age 70 and older, only 20% of that age group use the internet.

So there is a noticeable gap between the younger age groups who show a clear preference for the internet, and the older groups who were not so old back in the day when Mr Oya slanged them for being boob tubers.

“Naturally the TV networks are well aware of the trend for younger people to cut down on their TV watching,” an executive at one of the commercial networks tells Nikkan Gendai. “So the viewer ratio that is the basis of advertising sales has been shifting away from ‘family viewing ratio’ to ‘individual viewer ratio,’ and among this, an even greater emphasis is being placed on the core viewer segment of ages 13 through 49.”

But not all is lost, he continues.

“While people might cease to watch the TV in the form a ‘box,’ there’s been no appreciable drop in the viewing of moving images. Now we’ve come to an era where young people watch dramas, cinema and variety shows on their smartphones. So it’s not a situation of people saying they ‘don’t watch TV’ — it’s more like they’re saying they ‘don’t look at a TV receiver.'”

It appears then that formats offering greater options for viewing, including video on demand, free and pay channels on the internet and others, are also attracting greater ad revenues.

“We are approaching a time when virtually anything you see on the TV airwaves will soon be viewable on the internet,” the executive said.

So while terebi-banare (quitting TV) may be ongoing, there’s no sign of any movement toward contents-banare, the writer concludes.