Kohaku ratings are sure to fall below 30%, and this may cause an unexpected firestorm! NHK’s “friction” with the Japan Newspaper Publishers Association is troubling NHK. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kohaku ratings are sure to fall below 30%, and this may cause an unexpected firestorm! NHK’s “friction” with the Japan Newspaper Publishers Association is troubling NHK.

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Contestants at the ’18 press conference. This was the first year that “King&Prince” competed from the former Johnny’s group.

New School Leaders, Ado, ano, Ran Ito, MISAMO, Yo Oizumi, Kitatatsuya, Sutopuri, Stray Kids, SEVENTEEN, 10-FEET, MAN WITH A MISSION, and Mrs. GREEN APPLE.

These are the singers who will participate in the 74th NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen (December 31, starting at 7:20 p.m.), which was announced recently. A total of 13 groups, five in red and eight in white, will participate in the contest for the first time. The fact that no singers from the former Johnny’s office will be participating in the festival has led to a generational shift. However, the average age of the singers has gone up. Nor has there been any progress in metabolism. With the exception of Ran Ito and Yo Oizumi, recognition in so-called public opinion polls is probably 20-30%.

Even so, the station’s executives spoke the usual words at the press conference. The selection of the contestants is based on three factors: this year’s success and public support, the program’s planning, and whether the singer fits the production. As for the absence of former Johnny’s, he emphasized, “This is the result of following NHK’s overall policy,” and even went so far as to say, “There is no such thing as a Johnny’s quota.

Three years ago, the former Johnny’s accounted for one-third of the singers in the white group, and when asked by a reporter if there was too much bias, he responded with the same phrase, “This year’s successes…. A reporter for NHK, a sports newspaper, said.

The NHK staff intended to have the two SnowStar teams participate in the competition. If we had dropped them, it would have meant that the other singers would have been more successful.

That is why such an observation balloon article was written. However, the NHK directors probably took the risk of receiving criticism from public opinion and political circles by allowing the former Johnny’s to participate in the competition rather than the program. I am sure that they discussed in advance whether they would be able to make it this year or next year.

The concern is viewer ratings. Nowadays, household viewership ratings make the news only for major sporting events and Kohaku, but even so, NHK is concerned about household viewership ratings for Kohaku as a comparison from the past. This is because it affects the collection of subscription fees.

Last year, the average household viewership ratings for Kohaku were 31.2% for the first part and 35.3% for the second part (both in the Kanto area). The whispering among broadcasters is that the second part of the program will fall below 30%, which is somewhat inevitable since the HUT (total household viewer rating) is also declining, but if it is in the 20% range, the program will look like a mediocre program. Even though the method of measurement is different, the 81.4% record set in the Showa period has even led to discussions about the merits of the program’s continued existence.

Behind such discussions is the friction between NHK and the Japan Newspaper Publishers Association. Newspaper companies are all struggling to manage their operations due to a slump in paper circulation, and in addition to battling with their platforms over Internet news, they are also concerned about NHK’s expansion into the Internet. A reporter in charge of broadcasting at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications explains.

NHK is what we call a subscriber. If you include satellite broadcasting, it costs about 2,000 yen a month. Moreover, it is a half-mandatory system, and non-payment is subject to court proceedings. Newspaper publishers believe that it is not fair competition if they are backed by such sales to enter the online news business, which competes with newspapers. And they think that 2,000 yen a month is too expensive.

Also, is there a necessity for public broadcasters to continue producing singing programs? The newspapers believe that the time has come to discuss the “basic theory” of public broadcasting, namely, whether it is necessary to spend 70 to 80 million yen per episode to produce a historical drama that falls below 10%, even with Matsumoto Jun in the cast.

NHK executives have long been concerned about the Kohaku numbers because they want viewers to feel good about paying their subscription fees. However, NHK has been troubled by the fact that the singers participating in Kohaku have been placed in the spotlight more than before due to the sexual misconduct scandal at the former Johnny’s office. Even without Johnny’s talent, there are still possibilities if new collaborations can be presented to replace them. It would be nice if NHK could come up with a project similar to the “Rock’n Roll Band of the Ages” led by Keisuke Kuwata, which participated in last year’s Kohaku, but it is hard to believe that the people in charge of NHK’s music programs have such personal connections and planning ability.

NHK executives are concerned about viewer ratings and public opinion.

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Kanna Hashimoto will be hosting the event for the second time, following last year. Hashimoto, who says she and Hamabe are best friends, offered to dance with her on the Kohaku stage, saying, “I want to dance with Mi-chan” (February 2011).
This is Minami Hamabe’s first time hosting the event. When Hashimoto offered to dance with her, she commented, “I’m really not good at dancing, so I’ll just support her” (September 2011).
  • Interview and text by Taro Aoyama

    As a reporter for a sports newspaper, Taro Aoyama covered a wide range of entertainment-related topics, including music, movies, and television. Currently he writes as a freelance writer.

  • PHOTO Kazuhiko Nakamura

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