More Japanese are Showing Distrust to TV News Programs as Most of Them Appears to be Infotainment
I’m not that good at English, but I do my best to watch BBC and CNN to get accurate information about the war in Ukraine.””I don’t want to hear commentators’ comments about Ukraine, so I turn off the sound on the TV when it comes to the studio…” …I actually have people around me who are like this.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it seems that trust in Japanese TV news has unfortunately declined even further.
Why is it that Japanese TV news is so unreliable? I see one major cause as “the near-identification of news and wide shows.
There is no distinction between a “news program” and a “wide show.
Here I would like to ask you one question. If you turn on the TV, you will see “news-like programs” every day from early morning to late at night.
Here are the names of typical “news-like” programs in each station’s Monday through Friday slots.
NTV affiliates: “Oha!4 NEWS LIVE,” “Z I P! Miyaneya,” “news every,” and “news zero
TBS affiliate: “THE TIME,” “Hiruobi! Gogosuma,” “N-sta,” “news23
Fuji Television Network: “Mezamashi TV,” “Mezamashi 8,” “Viking More,” “It! FNN Live News Alpha
TV Asahi affiliate: “Good! Morning,” “Shinichi Hatori Morning Show,” “Yoko Oshita Wide! Scramble,” “Super J Channel,” “News Station
TV Tokyo affiliates: “Morning Satellite,” “Afternoon Satellite,” “Yugata Satellite,” “WBS
To answer your question, all TV Tokyo affiliates are news programs, but news programs in other affiliates are “news every,” “news zero,” “N-sta,” “news 23,” “it! FNN Live News Alpha,” “Super J Channel,” and “News Station. The rest are so-called “wide shows.
In other words, the evening and night programs are news programs, while the morning, noon, and afternoon programs are wide shows in principle. In between, there is only a short regular news program.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what I mean when I say that “news and wide shows have become one and the same.
Let’s look at the most obvious example. The most obvious examples are NTV’s “Miyaneya” and “news every,” and TBS’s “Gogosma” and “NSTA,” both of which are broadcast during the same time slot.
Can you find any difference between “Miyaneya” and “news every”? Is there any difference between “Gogosma” and “NSTA”? Most people probably feel that the programs are almost the same. It is not surprising that these programs seem so similar.
However, if you look at these programs from the perspective of their “production system,” you can clearly see that they are completely different programs. Let me explain in detail. If we take the case of Ukrainian news production as an example, you can see the difference very clearly.
Fundamental Difference in Production System
The wide show programs “Miyaneya” and “Gogosma” are not actually produced by the department that produces news. Moreover, it is not actually a Tokyo broadcasting station that produces these two programs. Miyaneya” is produced by Yomiuri TV in Osaka, and “Gogosma” by CBC in Nagoya.
They do not obtain any of the “Ukrainian news footage” that serves as the “raw material” for their VTRs. We use the footage that NTV and TBS news bureaus in Tokyo have covered, or that the Tokyo press has purchased from foreign broadcasters and other sources, and ask them to “please” send it to us from Tokyo.
It is almost impossible to “use the latest footage earlier than the Tokyo news”. Unless they see the footage broadcast on a Tokyo news program and ask for permission to use that footage that was used on the news program of when, they will not receive the footage.
This is basically the same for wide shows produced by local bureaus as well as those produced by Tokyo key bureaus. After seeing the footage on the news, the wide-show staff must apply for permission to use it, and only after receiving an OK is the footage loaned.
Therefore, it is safe to say that, in principle, the Ukrainian footage used in wide-run shows is “not as up-to-date as the news programs, but a little older. (However, the content of the section of the wide program where the news floor comes out and says, “Here is the latest news from the news floor,” is up-to-date because it is produced by the news staff.)
On the other hand, “NSTA” and “news every” are produced by Tokyo-based news reports. As a rule, all news footage is the latest that has been reported by foreign correspondents and the latest that has been distributed by foreign broadcasters and news agencies. It is safe to say that all of them are “the latest footage available in Japan at that time.
The same can also be said for “scripts” and “information. As a general rule, news reporters are obliged to write scripts, reporter reports, and live broadcasts when requested to do so by news programs.
However, there is no obligation to write a script for a wide-ranging program, nor is there any need for a reporter’s report or live coverage of the program.
Therefore, as a rule, reporters from Ukraine do not appear live on “Miyaneya” or “Gogosma”. In principle, news reporters do not write scripts for “Miyaneya” and “Gogosma. Instead, they ask them to write scripts for news programs, which are then rewritten and used by the wide-format show directors.
Furthermore, the news departments of the Osaka and Nagoya broadcast stations that produce “Miyaneya” and “Gogosma” do not have departments in charge of international news. The only departments in charge of international news, called “foreign affairs departments” or “foreign news departments,” are found at the Tokyo key stations.
However, Osaka and Nagoya broadcasters also have at least one or two overseas branch offices. For example, they send one correspondent each to the Shanghai and Paris bureaus. Therefore, there are several reporters in Osaka and Nagoya who have experience in overseas reporting. However, since there are no specialists who publish international news on a daily basis, there are almost no personal connections with overseas news sources.
If I don’t understand something, I have to ask Tokyo to tell me what it is, and in principle I am not used to producing international news that much. In fact, I would say that I am not very good at it. The program directors are also from Nagoya and Osaka, so their experience in dealing with international news is unfortunately limited compared to that of the Tokyo-based directors.
What I am trying to say is that news programs and wide shows, which seem to be almost the same, are unfortunately actually quite different. I believe that simply being aware of the fact that they are not the same will be helpful in choosing which programs to watch in the future.
Wide shows should make use of what they are “good” at
As explained above, compared to news programs, wide-running programs are inevitably inferior when it comes to “covering accurate and up-to-date information.
Fewer staff members have basic knowledge of international news, and program budgets are generally smaller than those for news programs. Therefore, to make up the time, they have to rely on “panel commentary” in the studio, “commentators’ opinions,” and “live commentary via remote connection with experts” to fill the time.
Wide show programs are inherently good at covering “familiar topics and news closely related to our daily lives. It is important to talk about such “familiar topics” in the studio.
Therefore, the regular commentators in the studio often do not have much expertise in Ukraine, Russia, or war. Even so, they are forced into a situation where they “have to comment on something because they are in the studio.
If you rely on the information of one or two experts to produce a program, the content will inevitably be biased. This is because even experts have their own opinions and knowledge that are biased.
I think it would be a good idea for wide-ranging programs not to deal with topics they are not “good” at, such as war, and to leave them to news programs. Instead, they should specialize in “topics and news that are close to our daily lives and familiar to us,” which is their specialty.
The world today, with its epidemics, frequent natural disasters, and even wars, is truly a “crisis for mankind. It is precisely in times like these that it is important for the viewer to be treated properly with “topics and news that are close to our daily lives and familiar to us.
Many people may feel suffocated if they have to watch Ukraine from morning to night. I feel that it is precisely because we live in such a time that many people want to “watch” entertainment news, neighborhood troubles, and information about daily life.
TV stations have been promoting the “wide-show-ization” of news
And I think there is actually a big problem with the news as well. The news is becoming more and more like a news show, in step with the way that wide-format shows are becoming more and more like news.
If you look at the evening news now, you will see “hot new products” and “popular gourmet foods,” and you will wonder, “Is this really news? Isn’t this a wide show?” The most common are special features with content that is “not so good”. And news programs often include TV personalities and “How much news can this person talk about? The “what if” scenarios are often accompanied by cultural figures who appear as commentators.
In the past, news programs would only cast “experts on the news” or “journalists” as commentators. When dealing with serious news, there is little need for the “just my personal opinion” element. I believe that a news program should have “strict production standards to pursue objective facts, which are different from those of a wide-ranging news show.
Speaking of “objective facts,” when I used to work as a reporter, news programs were only allowed to broadcast “facts that were confirmed by our own reporters,” in other words, “information that had been corroborated. I was at TV Asahi, and even if the news was widely reported by the parent company, Asahi Shimbun, we would not broadcast it on our news programs unless it was confirmed by TV Asahi.
But before long, it became commonplace for TV Asahi to broadcast other companies’ news without checking back, just like a wide-ranging TV show, saying “according to the Daily Yomiuri.
On the positive side, the news may have become more accessible by becoming more like a wide-ranging show, but on the negative side, I believe that the increasing trend toward wide-ranging news shows has clearly decreased the reliability of information.
In the midst of the Corona disaster and the war in Ukraine, it is time to rethink “what TV news and wide shows should be” and clearly separate their roles.
Otherwise, the credibility of Japanese TV news is likely to decline endlessly. And now may be the last chance to regain the trust of viewers that is being lost. No, perhaps it is already too late.
As a member of the TV industry, I sincerely hope that TV stations and TV people will seriously tackle the reform of news and wide programs with such a sense of crisis.
Text： Hiromichi Chinmoku / TV Producer and Writer
Joined TV Asahi in 1992. After covering the Great Hanshin Earthquake and Aum Shinrikyo-related events as a reporter in the Social Affairs Department, he worked as a director for Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station before becoming a producer. He has covered many foreign events, including coverage of China and the Korean Peninsula and the terrorist attacks in the U.S. He has also worked as a producer. He also participated in the launch of ABEMA's service, planning and producing programs such as "AbemaPrime" and "Tragic Comedy of W." In August 2019, he became independent and is active in multiple media as well as broadcasting programs. He is an adjunct lecturer at Sophia University, Faculty of Letters, Newspaper Department. As a member of the Society for Public Communication, he has studied local media and has researched and written articles on face-framing panels as his life's work. His recent books include "Dramatically Increase Access and Registrations! Video Production" Professional Tricks 52" (Nippon Jitsugyo Publishing Co., Ltd.)