The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Ministry of internal affairs and communications
Bureaucracy remains ahead of NHK streaming

The revised Broadcast Act, which will enable simultaneous internet delivery of NHK television programs, was passed into law on May 29. The dual distribution is set to start during fiscal 2019, and the fee that TV owners must pay to NHK will now also cover viewing on personal computers or smartphones. But debate over market competition and a host of other issues, such as how to charge internet-only subscribers, remain unresolved.

Some have criticized NHK for perceived intimidation of commercial broadcasters, and to avoid this the organization has shown a willingness—for the time being—to adopt a rule limiting outlays for internet expenditures to 2.5 percent of its operational costs.

NHK currently transmits disaster infor­mation and certain sporting events online. Its initial investment in regular broadcasts may reach ¥5 billion, with annual operation costs projected to be the same. Once fully operational, the 2.5 percent limit will become irrelevant.

One thing impeding commercial broad­casters’ own startup of internet simulcasts is said to be the patchwork of regulations related to copyright. The ICB has taken a hands-off approach, seeming uninterested in objectively dealing with efforts to revise these rules, which fall under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The BBC initiated net broadcasting in 2006, followed by France Télévisions in 2011. The rapid expansion of services such as Netflix in the United States has further stimulated debate at NHK.

Emphasizing the importance of the revised Broadcast Act, a high-ranking official in the ministry was quoted as saying, “With TV audiences having reached saturation, simulcasts will boost viewing convenience.” It’s obvious to anyone, however, that the current subscriber system—still dependent on TV receivers—is showing signs of fatigue. Once 5G technology is up and running, further fusing broadcast and online communications, drastic reforms to the subscription system will be a must.

Cabinet Office
Supporting the overlooked “lost generation”

On May 31, the Cabinet Office oversaw a meeting of economic and financial policy experts who issued proposed guidelines for “robust” operation of the economy. One of the pillars of the guidelines would be to provide support aimed at so-called rosu-jen—a contraction of “lost generation”—meaning individuals born between 1974 and 1984. These are people, now in their late thirties to mid-forties, who came of age during Japan’s economic Lost Decade (1991–2000).

Many had great difficulty finding employ­ment following the prolonged recession and have been unable to secure stable employment since. Unless policies promo­ting hiring them as regular company staff are put into effect, concerns are that they may become dependent on welfare, which would put a further burden on Japan’s teetering social pension scheme.

A plan was put forward for a concen­trated program, overseen by the government, to promote employment. This includes hiring more people as tenured company staff and would benefit those who graduated from high school or university between 1993 and 2004.

About one in five workers of this generation were affected by the eco­nomic downturn. Some three percent—or 520,000 people—currently work as so-called free arbiters, or freeters, and are employed on a sporadic basis. Another 19 percent (3.17 million) work as contract or dispatched workers, rather than tenured company employees.

If these workers continue as freeters or contractors, and fail to acquire the skills to qualify as regular company staff, they will find it difficult to shoulder the burdens of looking after their aging parents and might even find themselves on welfare. Also, without sufficient income, their weakened consumer activities will result in a decline in economic demand. The government finds such a prospect to be worrisome.

But some economists say it’s already too late, that support should have been provided when the rosu-jen were younger.

Japanese companies continue to adhere to the practice of hiring directly following graduation. Failure to secure employment at that time can result in an ongoing inability to land a good job. A woman in her late thirties remarked bitterly: “The government did nothing to encourage corporate hiring practices. It infuriates me to see it finally starting to consider support at this stage.”

Keizaikai magazine