A Critical Analysis of Public Service Broadcasting in a Digital Environment - Its Changing Role in Japan from the International Comparative Viewpoint

34 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2012

Date Written: August 15, 2006


The objective of this paper is to evaluate the socio-economic dimensions of PSB in a world where innovation, liberalization and deregulation are facilitating the expansion of competition. Japan is our primary focus even though we are concerned by PSB’s transformation in Europe and North America. We analyse PSB’s unique socio-economic characteristics and formulate an analytical framework to better identify the key issues to be addressed in the policy process.

As in the most European countries, Japan’s broadcasting has had a dual system; on one hand, Japan has commercial broadcasters financed by advertising revenues and, on the other hand, it has one public service broadcaster, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). NHK’s financing has been based on a rather unique mechanism, namely, a voluntary payment of license fees by viewers. Thanks to entry regulations, the Japanese broadcasting market has effectively evolved into a “cosy duopoly” that has remained sheltered from effective competition for half a century. However, changes such as the growth of multi-channel broadcasting, the introduction of pay television, and the advent of the Internet are shaking the very foundation of this historical system. The emergence of new content distributors, particularly the Internet service providers, and the growth of broadband networks are accelerating the process, challenging not only NHK but also the incumbent commercial broadcasters. The privileged status of incumbents is increasingly eroded by additional factors such as the entry of these “new species” of content providers as well as the appearance of self-broadcasting approaches such as blogging and social networking. That new situation can be traced to a digital convergence of broadcasting, telecommunications and information industries that has been accelerating in recent years. It raises fundamental questions about the growing conflict between existing regulations and the economic efficiency of the sector. More basically, one wants to evaluate what the future role of PSB should be in this emerging environment. The policy implications of those fundamental changes need to be debated. We may point out that the need for such a debate is not unique to Japan.

Today’s core socio-economic question is whether or not PSB as we know it has become “an ordinary economic good”, i.e., a service most efficiently provided through the market. In sharp contrast to the United States, Japan and European countries look at the cohesion of the society and the preservation of the national identity as important policy objectives. However, as Armstrong and Weeds (2005) suggests, when “digital broadcasting is less prone to traditional market failures and will supply the programmes that viewers broadly wish to watch,” there is an urgent need to reconsider the rationale of “market failure” for PSB.

The paper, first, reviews the studies on the value of PSB, which were mainly conducted in UK and Japan. Second, it examines the impact of digital convergence on PSB. Third, it discusses the rationale for PSB in today’s context as well as policy options. Finally, we comment on PSB’s changing role in the digital age.

Suggested Citation

Nakamura, Kiyoshi and Bourdeau de Fontenay, alain, A Critical Analysis of Public Service Broadcasting in a Digital Environment - Its Changing Role in Japan from the International Comparative Viewpoint (August 15, 2006). TPRC 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2118974

Kiyoshi Nakamura (Contact Author)

Waseda University ( email )

1-104 Totsukamachi, Shinjuku-ku
tokyo, 169-8050

Alain Bourdeau de Fontenay

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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