A 'Communications Society'

Article excerpt

A 'communications society'

A Unesco Courier interview with Mr. Yozo Shiozaki, President of Dentsu France S.A., a subsidiary of Japan's largest communications agency, Dentsu Incorporated, on the part played by the media in cultural life.

Which are the dominant media in Japan today?

Of the four "mass media"--newspapers, magazines, television and radio--the most powerful is television. There are two channels run by the State-owned Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), and five commercial networks. Of the 39 million households in Japan, 99.7 per cent own at least one TV set, and the average individual watches three to five hours daily. Japanese people are also avid readers. Five newspapers are read nationwide, two of them (Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun) by over 7 million households each. Japan's newspaper circulation figures are among the highest in the world, and readership is very stable because of the high percentage of subscribers, who have their papers delivered to the home. Until the 1970s, newspapers tended to publish articles on mainly political and economic topics written for a predominantly male readership. But recently more editorial effort has gone into home life, women's pages, sport and entertainment. Over 2,000 monthly and 70 weekly magazines are also published. Radio, which was forced into the background in the early days of television, has made a comeback with the introduction of commercial stations, nearly half of which operate around the clock, especially in urban areas.

What is the role of the media in cultural life?

The contribution of the media has changed along with social developments and now includes the conception and co-ordination of cultural events as a link between private industry and the public. For example, as a communications agency we were one of the major promoters of both the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and of Expo '70 in Osaka. More recently, we played a major role in organizing, producing and promoting the 1985 International Exposition at Tsukuba on the theme "Science and Technology for Man at Home", which was sponsored by the Japanese Government and twenty-eight private corporations. The mass publicity given to this event encouraged some 20 million people to visit the displays, and they found that high tech developments were perhaps not as remote from their daily lives as they had thought.

Which other activities attract private sponsorship and extensive media promotion?

The first official sumo wrestling tournament outside Japan, for example, which was sponsored by a television network in 1986. The Japanese people were delighted that a sumo tournament should take place abroad, because the sport is very close to the roots of their national identity. Probably everyone in Japan watches the wrestling bouts which are broadcast on the State television network every day during tournament seasons. It's a spiritual sport, more akin to the mind than to the body. Similar coverage is given to baseball, as the Yomiuri actually owns the "Giants", a famous baseball team in Japan. A year ago the first concert hall in Japan to be devoted to classical music was opened in the centre of Tokyo, sponsored by a beverage manufacturer and distributor. Other cultural and educational activities which attract sponsorship are theatre and cinema performances, art exhibitions, courses for the public, creation of green spaces in cities, publishing, scholarships and international exchanges, to name but a few. The activities of Japanese companies abroad are a new trend in this booming phenomenon. Another good example of such commercial enterprise is a series of events entitled "Close-up of Japan", sponsored by a large Japanese group. …