Why were TV viewer ratings for this year's 3-11 commemorative programs so low?
At 9 p.m. on March 11, TBS TV broadcast "Nakai Masahiro no Kinyobi no Sumairu-tachi e" -- called "Kin-suma" for short. The installment that evening was about Shoko Kanazawa a 30-year-old calligrapher born with Down's Syndrome, who through the 2011 disaster developed close relations with Taiwan whose citizens donated the equivalent of 20 billion yen to disaster relief.
Extra efforts had been poured into making a high-quality production, and it was broadcast during "golden time," as prime time is referred to in Japan. Unfortunately, TBS network executive Hiroki Kikuno told Shukan Gendai (April 9) that the audience viewer rating in the greater Kanto area that evening was a disappointing 9.4% -- several points lower than the 12.9% average achieved by the same show for the previous four weeks.
On the 5th anniversary of the catastrophe that befell the Tohoku region, NHK broadcast a special program titled "The Tsunami That Attacked Me" from 8 p.m. It too attracted a low viewer rating of just 9.2%. In contrast, stations that stuck to their regular programming schedules did somewhat better: 11.7% for "Music Station" on TV Asahi; 11% for "Pittanko Kankan" on TBS, and 9.3% for a program featuring the comedy duo Downtown on the Fuji network.
In the lead up to the March 11 anniversary, other special programs broadcast by NHK attracted few viewers, on March 5 (which obtained a 6% rating); March 6 (7.5%); March 8 (4.4%) and March 10 (5.5%).
So why, Shukan Gendai wants to know, did a large segment of the TV audience avert their eyes from programs related to the disaster? Might it be indicative of the "coldness" or indifference of Japanese?
"The people who watch TV also understand the importance of reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas," said Hiroko Hagiwara, an economic journalist. "But for a mother who's unable to get her child admitted to a nursery school, other problems may seem more pressing."
Many other people feel resentful in other ways, unhappy over the government's large outlays for the 2020 Olympic Games or to promote the G7 summit at Ise-Shima, thinking they should instead have gone toward reconstruction of the damaged areas. That doesn't mean they have forgotten about the damage.
Part of viewer dissatisfaction may also be in the programs themselves.
"From the special programs broadcast by the commercial TV networks, it's become increasingly evident that they're adopting a format similar to the '24-hour charity TV' show," observed Hiroaki Mizushima, who formerly produced documentaries for the NTV network on poverty and other problems, and who is now a professor at Hosei University.
"One gets the feeling that every March, the networks just generate programs out of a sense of obligation," Mizushima continues. "I suppose that is not necessarily a bad thing in itself; but the productions tend to become stereotyped, showing manipulative tear-jerker scenes and hosted by commentators who drop in to the damaged areas only to shoot the program and never fail to raise complaints about the slowness of the recovery."
As more evidence of viewer apathy, the 90-minute-long NHK dramatic reenactment of the "dangerous 88 hours" subsequent to the Fukushima reactor meltdown, broadcast from 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, attracted a disappointing viewer rating of just 7.6%. In contrast, the "Sanada Maru" historical drama that preceded it, along with the news and weather report just before 9 p.m., attracted more than 16%. In other words, when the drama began at 9 p.m., roughly half of NHK's audience snatched up their "remo-kon" and changed to another channel.
It's not always easy to grasp the reasons for TV viewers' tastes. Shizuka Ijuin, pen name for Japan-born Korean Cho Chung-rae and a contributor to Shukan Gendai, offered this observation: "I've had to express condolences to any number of acquaintances. While thinking that I'd like to see them smile, I understand that even after five years, it's not that simple for them to come to terms with the memories that remain in their hearts."
It's not that you want to forget, Shukan Gendai concludes. But if you don't forget, you can't go on living. It's this kind of contradictory sadness that becomes a persistent component of people's lives.© Japan Today