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TBS treats its extras like slaves

28 Comments

Wanna be on TV? Even if you think you do, you don’t – at least not as an extra at TV network TBS, if Friday (May 11-18) is to be believed.

“Slavery,” “labor camp” – you don’t expect a TV studio to evoke such images. Well, judge for yourself. Here were 160 extras crammed into a roughly 20-mat room, waiting to be brought before the cameras. Leaving the room was forbidden. There was a convenience store in the building, but as the hours dragged on and people started getting hungry, it was declared off limits by sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued TBS staffers. Also off limits were the staff elevators.

When their turn came, the extras had to take the stairs from the third floor to the studio on the 11th – several times in the course of the day. How long a day? Nearly 12 hours, as it turned out. The pay was 2,500 yen, which works out to about 200 yen an hour.

Tempers flared, naturally. The harassed extras turned on each other, pushing and shoving for a bit of space. Some, feeling ill, made up their minds to forego the pay and leave. Nothing doing. “That’s contract violation – we won’t let you go!” shouted one of the ever-vigilant staffers.

What program was being filmed? It was the variety show "Job Tune," emceed by the comedy trio Neptune, and the irony is that the show’s theme is the seamy side of various kinds of employment, the guests being people who have been through the mill and know whereof they speak. Friday’s allegations, backed by comments from the extras themselves (who, however, are unnamed), pertain to the April 16 taping of the program aired on April 26.

At one point, a “floor director” attempted to rally people’s spirits. “Listen,” he said, “applaud and react as vigorously as you can. If you do, our ratings will go up and you’ll get regular spots on the program.” This exhortation, we are told, was received without much interest.

When, around 11 p.m., the ordeal was finally over, the extras were reportedly told, “You are absolutely not to reveal anything you saw or heard today on the Internet. We have your individual information. If any information goes out on the Net, we’ll go after the criminal and make him or her take responsibility!”

Contacted by Friday, TBS seemed puzzled as to what the fuss was about. “We informed the extras beforehand about the pay, the hours they’d be needed, the meal situation and so on, and they were enlisted after their approval was obtained,” a network spokesperson said. “There was no trouble of the sort you speak of.”

So it boils down to who you choose to believe. Being an extra used to be a pretty good deal, Friday says – with pay averaging 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen a day. Then the recession set in, and the good old days became a fading memory – in the TV field as in so many others.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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this is just so sick.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Why does Japan even need TV any more, when 90% of the adult population seem to have their face in cell phones, iPads or hand-held video games?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

But isn't there a sense of self importance? I've been on TV, I've seen talento X? Otherwise why would they bother? The local convenience store pays more for less hassle.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Where's the motivation to stay for 2500 yen an hour? I'd rather be homeless. It's not even worth it for just for pocket money for students let alone survive on it. And if I really wanted to see a famous moron I could just wander round the corridors and bump into one, sod the "contract". Doesn't make sense. Probably yet more BS from the weeklies.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

The pay is not JY 2500 per hour - but for whole day pay is JY 2500 - which works out to JY 200 per hour pay rate - article clearly mentions this. Agree with others, I cannot imagine why should anyone want to do this, unless they were ignorant and not aware of actual work conditions. Would be interesting to hear a follow up on this as to how many of these 160 people actually returned to do it one more time knowing the work conditions - that would definitely defy any logic.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"contract violation"? I wonder if they'd signed a valid contract? This is a dreadful story. I wonder if the staffers tried to physically hold back the extras? That's grounds for assault or coercion or something innit?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sounds great. Sign me up.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

You'd think that sound engineers would've come up with some synthetic form of canned laughter by now right?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

tallgaijin

yes, sorry, 2500yen a day. typo. like i said it wouldn't even be worth it for pocket money. 2500an hour would be great for students or part-timers though

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You'd think that sound engineers would've come up with some synthetic form of canned laughter by now right?

Yes, like "heeeeeeee..." or "huuuuuuu"... or whatever they always say - they don't need a live audience.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are some programs where the laugh track is provided by the crew and no-one else. Talk about annoying.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This sounds like the whining of someone who expected a dressing room with a star on the door.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Yep! Gone are the days when it used to be 20.000 yen/day (for gaijins) as extras - "bentos" and tea provided by the company.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some people are so desperate to be a star they will do ANYTHING to get their shot at the big time. There are two sides to this the people willing to do this for so little and for such poor treatment. And shame to the producers who treated the people like garbage. The really sad part is that hey were on a show about poor working conditions.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Extras"? It sounds like they were members of a studio audience. Extras appear in dramas, not applauding during variety programs.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don't know why they need to pay for extras if they are just using them for a studio audience. Why not do what they do in the States? Just give free tickets to people who want to be part of a studio audience and as incentives, give out random prizes. You'll have the studio packed with new people all the time and you won't have to pay them. The only thing is that they would need to keep regular hours for the show.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This has been going on forever.

Do you really think the authorities give a damn, they allow the kidapping of infants so they wont care about j-adults being kidnapped for day use!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It can take a whole day of filming just to do a 30 second commercial. The whiskey filming scene in the movie "Lost in Translation" isn't far off the reality.

Anyway, treating extras like crap has been going on since day zip. Did it once and never again. I guess the allure to be on TV works like an effective fly-trap.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surely it would be cheaper for TBS to fill the studio with bleating, mooing farmyard animals....the desired effect would be the same.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Just walk out. Nobody can ever stop you from leaving...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So what is different here? Wage slavery in Japan is the norm.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

this is the only part that doent seem to be out of sorts:

When, around 11 p.m., the ordeal was finally over, the extras were reportedly told, “You are absolutely not to reveal anything you saw or heard today on the Internet. We have your individual information. If any information goes out on the Net, we’ll go after the criminal and make him or her take responsibility!”

fair enough. other than that it sucks but hey you signed the contract. They got you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some, feeling ill, made up their minds to forego the pay and leave. Nothing doing. “That’s contract violation – we won’t let you go!” shouted one of the ever-vigilant staffers.

Sorry for the double post but can they actually detain you like that if you want to leave? Its illegal in the states, is it in JP?

And @jonobugs

I don't know why they need to pay for extras if they are just using them for a studio audience.

JP is not like the states. By paying them an making a contract they are guaranteeing proper audience participation. Most japanese audience are not like US audiences. If the studio just allowed anybody in they could have a very silent audience that doesnt know how to react to what happening.

People may hate me for saying this but many japanese people in japan only act out on cue. Its like they dont know how to show ethusiam on their own. At a lot of clubs or concerts i see so many people just standing around clapping their hands. no one really dancing or screaming unless its fanatics like some of the AKB fans. Its like many need a prompt to tell them how to show enthusiam or how to do most things.

I mean, if you ever get a chance, watch a japanese person go to Subway sandwiches for the first time and watch how shocked they are and how nervous they get. So many times i have seen the employees have to give detailed instruction on how to order a sandwich.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The worst thing is that most of the slaves came back the next day. The producers told them to come back so they did.

watch a japanese person go to Subway sandwiches for the first time

Oh dude it is like watching a car crash in slow motion. I like to butt in half way and tell them that they shouldnt have ordered that cheese because it is made from goat milk. The staff nearly cry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is Japanese TV to a tee, working in the media industry for years the "talent agencies" recieve all the money and the actual people on TV are just pushed around like sheep.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've worked as an extra for TBS in the big money era. As a foreigner, they treated us very well. And from what I saw and remember, the Japanese extras were treated well, too. I can imagine that the hourly wages for extras have dropped, as well as payments for everything else, since the economic collapse. The incident in the story above might have been limited to that one time. If they do it during each filming event, then times have changed. If so, the extras must put up with it if they want to eat ... As for the off-limit restrictions, I guess TBS doesn't want just anyone wandering around their premises. Many big companies also have their off-limit areas for outsiders. Sounds sane to me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do not under any circumstances do jobs like this. There is NO protection for foreigners in the Japanese entertainment industry. NONE. And the Japanese themselves are treated just as bad. Been there, done that. I appreciate the gutsiness of this author to post this, because most people in this town keep their mouths shut. Nothing will ever change by remaining silent. Thank you for writing and posting, but, remember, do NOT do this kind of work. You have nothing to fight back with here. If you're going to do any work at all, get hired to do a key part with lines or get hired as one of a small group of people in a commercial. Be VERY specific with your agent about what you will do. If they start making noises, say "Thank you, but this is what I am willing to do." I had to do a job with a MONKEY on my back. LITERALLY. I had to tell them to give me double gloves in case the monkey decided he didn't like me. And on that job, we started at 6:30pm, and they didn't call me to makeup until 12:30am!!! And then we stood around for FOUR HOURS and then they FINALLY decided I could do my job... which was to walk BACKWARDS, delivering dialogue, step on to a column that LIFTED me to the ceiling, all while delivering dialogue and all with the monkey on my back!!! We finished at 11am. I had enough time to go home, shower, stuff food in my face, and go to my proofing job and my music job that night. 24 hours of hell. I got paid 300,000 yen, so I kept my mouth shut. (I was NOT an extra; I was "featured"). NONETHELESS, there are NO RULES here governing how ANYBODY is treated, and if there are, I'd like to know where the hell they are. It is UNBELIEVABLE how they will treat talent in this country, and I mean, foreign or Japanese. Sad, sad, sad commentary on a greedy industry who throws "talent" away like they were the second of three layers of plastic wrapping on any single food item you buy in a department store in Japan. FIGHT BACK people!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The ministry of communications looking forward to slash out TBS once reading this article, or expect the most expensive lawsuit ever known to man (K$81.8 trillion, where K$1 is US$10. K$ is kilowatt dollar)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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