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Government panel urges unified rules for broadcast, streamed TV

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receives a report from Hiroko Ota, chair of the government’s Regulatory Reform Promotion Council, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government’s Regulatory Reform Promotion Council has submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a report focusing on the integration of telecommunications and broadcasting in light of the expansion of online video-sharing services.

Based on the report, the government will decide on an implementation plan incorporating specific reform measures at a Cabinet meeting in mid-June.

The report, submitted to the prime minister on Monday, positions the integration of telecommunications and broadcasting as an important element in determining the future of the broadcasting business.

The report points out that simultaneously distributing TV programs on the internet is inevitable, and calls for the government to promote simultaneous distribution by both commercial broadcasters and NHK.

Concern over NHK dominance

However, some fear that NHK, a network supported by a large amount of subscription fees paid by viewers, could become bloated if it launches such a streaming television service.

“Regulatory reform is the main engine of the Abenomics [economic policy package]. The Cabinet will make all-out efforts to work on the issue going forward,” Abe said after receiving the report. He then instructed the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry to examine how to improve the broadcast business.

Commercial broadcasters remain cautious because a huge amount of investment is necessary to simultaneously release TV programs on the internet. However, NHK aims to start such a service soon. Commercial broadcasters and NHK clearly have different opinions on the issue.

Under the Broadcasting Law, online distribution of NHK programs is limited to the role of complementing conventional broadcasting. The law thus needs to be revised in order for NHK to continuously and simultaneously distribute TV programs on the internet. Careful discussions will be necessary before putting the system into practical use.

However, the report stresses that the pros and cons of NHK’s simultaneous distribution of TV programs should be determined soon.

Yoshihiro Oto, a professor of media theory at Sophia University, said, “The huge amount of revenue NHK receives from subscription fees is not for dominating the industry through simultaneous distribution.”

The report also says that regional broadcasters need to cooperate not only with the key broadcasters they are affiliated with, but also other regional broadcasters both within and outside their broadcasting areas.

It mentions that the 2010 revised Broadcasting Law made it possible to separate the software (program production) and hardware (broadcasting equipment) divisions, hinting that broadcasters that lack a strong management foundation should share content and equipment with each other when necessary.

However, separating these functions is expected to open the door for internet operators to enter the broadcasting business, raising fears that emergency responses during disaster situations could be delayed if programs from such operators are being broadcast at that time.

Media firms urge careful debate

With respect to the report, the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association’s media development panel issued a comment Monday calling for more careful discussion on the issue to ensure that the interests of the people and viewers are not undermined as a result of adopting an outlook that resembles industrial policy.

The Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association also issued a comment on the same day, expressing concern that if the proposals included in the report impose unreasonable restrictions on commercial broadcasters, it could lead to the deterioration of broadcasting services.

Meanwhile, NHK’s Public Relations Department said: “We’d like to closely examine the contents of the report. We hope in any case that the role of the public broadcaster will be respected in the course of discussions by the government.”Speech

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