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Home > Media Reiews > Other Review Last Updated: 14:56 03/09/2007
Other Review #77: April 1, 2005

Japan Media Review Update: April 1, 2005

JMR Staff (Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California)

The following reviews are posted at:

Softbank Company Steps In to Help Fuji TV
From The Japan Times: An affiliate of Softbank Corp. turned into a white knight for Nippon Broadcasting and Fuji TV by buying the largest stake in the broadcaster on March 24, putting a hold on a controversial takeover by Internet portal Livedoor. Only a day before, Livedoor had enjoyed a small victory when the Tokyo High Court stopped NBS from issuing share warrants to Fuji TV in order to fend off a takeover. "In order to strengthen ties among partners, NBS will lend its Fuji TV shares to Softbank Investment," the three corporations said in a joint statement. Softbank Investment's chief executive officer, Yoshitaka Kitao, was firm in saying Softbank Corp. was not involved in the deal. The companies said they would put 20 billion yen into investments in media content startups.
-- By Japan Media Review Managing Editor Shellie Branco

Popular Cell Phone Novels Connect Authors, Readers
From AP via The San Francisco Examiner: Several mobile Web sites are catering to the next emerging mobile culture in Japan: literature on cell phones. Hundreds of novels, including classics, best sellers and new works written only for cell phone users, are available online. Readers can read a few lines of a book at a time, which are downloaded in short segments. Bandai Networks Co. Ltd., a mobile service provider, launched a mobile e-book service in 2003 and carries 150 books with some 50,000 subscribers on its Web site "Bunko Yomihodai" ("All You Can Read Paperbacks"). Readers can search books by author, title or genre on the site as well as post reviews and send fan mail or ideas to authors through their cell phones. A recent marketing survey by Bandai reported more than half of readers are female and most reading is done at home. A novel titled "Deep Love," originally posted on a minor mobile site, became popular through word of mouth among young readers. That resulted in a film and TV show deals, as well as a comic book and printed novel that sold about 2.6 million copies. An executive producer at Starts Publishing Corp., which published "Deep Love," points out that cell phone publishing has formed a new kind of entertainment because of its interactive nature.
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Keiko Mori

NHK Cell Phone Site Posts False Disaster News
From Mainichi Daily News: Public broadcaster NHK accidentally posted false disaster information during a system test on a news site accessed by thousands of cell phone users. For some 20 hours between March 18 and 19, users accessing the site's tsunami information section could see postings on mock train accidents, such as "[Japan Rail] line tracks in all parts of the Metropolitan area are on fire," and "Shinjuku station has collapsed." The broadcaster failed to terminate its test system, leaving the information displayed on the site. While NHK took action after receiving a user's query 13 minutes after the last test, many people could still access the information until noon the following day. An NHK representative apologized for the mistake, saying the broadcaster would try to avoid another accident.
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Keiko Mori

NHK Budget Passes Despite Outcry Over Scandals
From The Asahi Shimbun: The Japanese legislature passed scandal-plagued NHK's 2005 budget despite opposition from three political parties and the broadcaster's worries that more of its subscribers could flee. NHK stands to lose billions of yen if up to 700,000 viewers refuse to pay mandatory fees by month's end, as the broadcaster has projected. The number of nonpayers increased by more than 150,000 over February, according to figures from NHK executive Sosuke Nakayama. Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party dismissed NHK's explanation of a scandal over a documentary allegedly altered over political pressure. The broadcaster's slow handling of the situation brought more trouble, as did another scandal in which NHK employees misused viewer funds. While in the past it was standard for the parties to unanimously approve NHK's budget, only the powerful Liberal Democratic Party pushed the budget through. NHK plans to cut salaries and production costs to handle its financial troubles.
-- By Japan Media Review Managing Editor Shellie Branco

Fuji TV, Livedoor Spat a Historical Power Play in Making
From The Asahi Shimbun: Fuji Television Network's "scorched earth" strategy -- dumping company assets to become a less attractive acquisition for Internet portal Livedoor Co. -- may be a sign of the Net gaining dominance over other media, according to Asahi's "Vox Populi, Vox Dei" column. A court ruling stopped takeover target Nippon Broadcasting from issuing equity warrants to shareholder Fuji, but Fuji's board of directors plans to raise its stock price as one strategy to shield itself from a takeover, according to an article in The Japan Times. It's a generational power struggle between Livedoor and the established broadcaster, following a historical pattern of media power plays, "Vox Populi" notes. Newspapers, once the most powerful medium, lost their dominance and became relatively equal in influence to TV after World War II. The Internet may do the same to TV's reach, although consumers will decide upon such an outcome according to the services the two media offer. It's still up in the air whether the outcome will revolutionize entire industries.
-- By Japan Media Review Managing Editor Shellie Branco

Japanese Companies Compete Over Powerline Internet
From Reuters: Three Japanese electronics manufacturers are competing with an alliance of 50 global companies to provide high speed Internet through electricity power lines in homes. Through their own SECA powerline alliance, Sony, Mitsubishi and Matsushita (Panasonic) have developed an alternative network that is three times faster and more stable than wireless Internet. Competing alliance HomePlug, which includes Japanese company Sharp, uses a standard that is not compatible with SECA and only uses 14 Megabits per second compared to SECA's 170 Mbps. HomePlug is said to be building a faster product. Sony is also part of the HomePlug alliance, but didn't comment on whether it would be part of both. SECA's introduction to the market now depends on government approval, said Panasonic researcher Ingo Chmielewski at the CeBIT electronics trade fair.
-- By Japan Media Review Managing Editor Shellie Branco

Former NHK Producer Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement
From The Japan Times: A former NHK chief producer pled guilty for stealing 19 million yen ($182,000) from the public broadcaster between 2000 and 2001. According to prosecutors at the Tokyo District Court trial on March 9, former employee Katsumi Isono embezzled money from the broadcaster by claiming to pay for fake program scripts written by entertainment company president Hisayuki Uehara, who also pled guilty as an accessory to the crime. Prosecutors said Isono fabricated the scam to finance an extra-marital relationship, while Uehara used his share to cover financial problems. In addition, Isono, fired earlier this month, has been prosecuted in three other cases for taking 38.9 million yen ($373,000) total from NHK. The company's own investigation found that Isono had committed fraud equalling 100 million yen ($960,000). "I loved my job in the broadcasting business," Isono said in court. "But I lost everything because I lacked consciousness of norms." He acknowledged that the fraud damaged viewers' trust in NHK. A series of frauds within the broadcaster has led hundreds of thousands of viewers to refuse payment of their mandatory viewer fees.
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Keiko Mori

Internet Drastically Alters Job Hunting
From Japan Today via Kyodo News: According to the Japan Business Federation, more than 60 percent of major companies accept online applications, and more companies now offer initial exams via the Internet. More students use specialized job-hunting Web sites as more than more than 80 percent of companies have contracts with those sites. Six thousand companies offer information on Recnavi, one of 10 job-search sites run by Recruit Co., to which the popularity of the Internet has brought more applicants. For instance, Fujitsu, a world-wide information technology corporation, has received 80,000 applicants, three times more than before, and Shiseido Co., a cosmetics company, has received 40,000 applications, 10 times more than usual. The online process has shown downsides, however. "Information obtained by using the five senses is several times more valuable than Internet information," said an official from Tokio Marine and Nichido Fire Insurance Co. An official at the Japan Business Federation echoed, "Really good personnel cannot be hired with employment dependent on information technology."
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Keiko Mori

Fuji TV Wins Management Control
From The Asahi Shimbun: Fuji Television Network announced today the company had secured more than 36 percent of Nippon Broadcasting Systems stock, giving it the sought-after veto power the company needed to keep Livedoor Co. at bay. The companies now await a court decision to be announced sometime this week filed by Livedoor. The Internet service provider requested that a judge stop Nippon Broadcasting from issuing additional stock shares, which would reduce Livedoor's stake from 45 percent to less than 20 percent. If the judge agrees with Livedoor's arguments, no more shares will be issued and Fuji TV and Livedoor will have equal shares in Nippon Broadcasting, effectively neutralizing each other's voting rights. Senior Livedoor officials said they plan to continue buying stock in Nippon Broadcasting until they reach their goal of 50 percent ownership. Even if Livedoor achieves its goal, Fuji TV will still wield veto power because it owns more than 33 percent of the overall stock. Livedoor has been engaged in a public fight over Nippon Broadcasting with Fuji TV since February when the online company made a surprise after-hours bid for NBS shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Erica Ogg

Blogs Blossom in Japan With Cash Rewards
From The Asahi Shimbun: Blogging is a rapidly growing trend in Japan. According to new surveys, 93.7 percent of Japanese Internet users were not aware of blogs as of February 2004, but by November of the same year, 60 percent had heard of blogs. Now the number of bloggers in Japan is estimated at 1 million. While most bloggers write their personal journals for fun and not for pay, blog-hosting firm Ameba Blog rewards its most popular blog sites with cash prizes. Known by the nickname "Kazuma," a 32-year-old blogger who published the true story of his controlling wife earned 1.34 million yen ($12,800) in awards in four months. Shin Suda, creative director at Cyber Agent, an Internet advertising firm that launched Ameba Blog, explained that the late-comer blog-hosting company needed unique features so they came up with a monetary prize system that "lets bloggers compete among themselves." Ameba Books, an affiliated firm specializing in publishing online content in book format, decided to print Kazuma's popular online diary. The book has sold more than 50,000 copies so far. "The Internet and books are very different formats with different audiences," said Suda. "It's very tiresome to read long transcripts on the computer, whereas it's very nice to have a solid book by your side you can turn to whenever you want."
-- By Japan Media Review Associate Editor Keiko Mori

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