Media Groups

Sometimes people ask me why I want to study Media in Japan, and the answer is U-Japan. Dr. Katja Valaskivi reports about Media research institutions on the Mapping Media and Communication Research: Japan

Considering the vastness of the media industry in Japan, or even the amount of research done in private organizations, the volume of academic research is quite modest, as is the number of doctoral degrees in the field. There are only a few departments of journalism, media studies or communication in universities in the entire country, and they are mainly in private universities.  In many cases faculty members interested in the media work at departments of sociology, political studies, economics, psychology, informatics, anthropology, literature or philosophy, rather than having a department focusing exclusively on media and communication.

Research in media and communication outside the academic community is abundant and rich. Most television companies, newspapers and advertising agencies have their own research units or subsidiaries, which most commonly focus on audience and/or marketing research aimed at developing the business of the companies.

Here are some of the Media research institutes presented in the same report mentioned above.

Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication (Nihon Masu Komyunikeishon Gakkai) was founded in 1951 as the Nihon Shimbun Gakkai, Association of Newspaper Research. Currently it has about 1400 members. There are about 30 companies supporting the association, which publishes an annual journal Masu komyunikeishon kenkyu. The journal publishes theoretically based research on varied subjects written by academic researchers. The association was originally run at the University of Tokyo, but now participating universities take turns in the administration of the ssociation. Currently the office is at the Tokyo Keizai University.

Japan Academy of Advertising (Nihon Kokoku Gakkai) was founded already in 1966. It has currently 622 members and 34 supporting companies. The aim of the association is to do theoretical and empirical research of advertisements and act as a lobbying organization. The supporting organizations include Asahi Shimbun and other newspapers, several advertising agencies and
television companies. The association is coordinated at Waseda University,  marketing Department. It publishes the annual journal Kokoku kagaku (Journal of Advertising Science).

Gendai Fuzoku Kenkyukai does not have an official name in English, but the name can be loosely translated as “Research Association of Contemporary Culture”. The association functions within the framework of sociology and cultural studies and was founded in 1975, inspired by professor emeritus Takeo Kuwabara at Kyoto University. The association focuses on research of contemporary culture, including popular culture, everyday life and media usage and publishes the journal Gendai Fuzoku.

The Japan Society of Information and Communication Research/ JSICR (Joho Tsushin Gakkai) is a foundation. It was founded in 1983 to commemorate The UN World Communication Year. Currently JSICR has 937 individual members and 54 organizational members. The association was founded to encourage and do research on telecommunication from humanistic, social, cultural and political viewpoints. Prior to the establishment of the association, telecommunication was mostly considered just from a technological point of view. In the 1980’s, when faxes and data communication spread into everyday usage, it became necessary to bring social sciences into the analysis. Currently the society focuses on social, political, cultural and economical problems of the information society and globalization of information flow.

The society has seven thematic study areas with respective study groups:
– legal issues in information and telecommunication
– economic issues in information and telecommunication
– information society
– international information
– information culture
– multimedia
– information behavior

The society also holds internal lecture meetings, symposiums and presentations of individual research projects, but also an “International Communication Forum”, with international guests. The association has an independent office in Toranomon, Tokyo. Currently the president of the association is Professor Youichi Ito from Keio University MediaCom. In addition to the annual report Joho tsushin nenpou, the association publishes an academic journal three times a year. The journal is called Joho tsushin gakkai shi.

Japan Association of Social Informatics (JASI) (Nihon Shakai Joho Gakkai) was founded in 1991. It aims at a desirable development of society in the age of information technology, wishing to establish a theoretical approach where the social system is perceived from the point of view of information. It focuses on the relationship between the new information and communication system and the social systems. The themes of interest include:

– the basic theory of social information informatics
– information, economics and the city
– information society, law and security
– media and culture
– communication and social relationships
– local citizens, their activities and ICT
– information systems and social applications
– game, simulation and network analysis

RITE, Research Institute of Telecommunication and Economics (Kokusai Keizai Tsushin Kenkyusho) is maintained by the Foundation for Multimedia Communications. Members of the
foundation include e.g. the Ministry of Communications (MIC), NHK, all major ICT-companies in Japan and several cities and prefectures.
RITE is a semi-public organization and it collects funding from both public and private sources.
The research at RITE focuses on e.g. international comparison of telecommunication and broadcasting laws, social structure and communication technology, new business opportunities and technological innovations in ICT and convergence of multimedia, communication and broadcasting.

There are plenty other Media research institutes and this is not the place to show all of them but to the end this article I have to talk about two of the most interesting research institutes. One founded by NHK and the other by NTT.

NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute (NHK Bunken) (NHK Hoso Bunka Kenkyujo) was founded in 1946 as a comprehensive research establishment of NHK. Bunken conducts
research on audiences, research and development for program-making and programming purposes and research on media-related issues in broadcasting and digital media.
Japan’s Broadcasting Law stipulates that the public broadcaster must conduct research activities along with broadcasting television programs. NHK researches program contents, investigates both Japanese and foreign broadcasting cultures and makes surveys on audience attitudes. The research acts as background information in basic policy-making of the public broadcaster. Bunken makes most of its research results available for the public and publishes several journals.
Bunken also conducts research that refers to media and media usage only indirectly. Every five years NHK conducts “The Survey on Value Orientations of the Japanese”, surveying 5000 people to grasp changes in the people’s attitudes and values. The survey has so far been conducted seven times, and the latest issue is from 2004. Bunken also conducts time budget surveys every five years.
One of the large research areas at Bunken is the research of media language. There is virtually no research on this field done outside Bunken, which means that research on language used in commercial broadcaster’s programs is virtually nonexistent.
Another strong research area at Bunken is media education. It also focuses on international comparisons of different media phenomena, from contents to industrial issues.
Obviously, Bunken also conducts research on the role of public service broadcasting in Japan and in the international setting.
Currently Bunken has about 80 employees, including part-timers. This makes the institute the largest among the traditional mass media company research units and much larger than any university research unit. However, the number of the researchers has been decreasing, as has the number of employees at NHK in general. Most of the employees come to work at Bunken as part of their circulation within NHK, and only a few have academic degrees beyond the usual bachelor level.
However, there are also some researchers who have moved to NHK from universities and some have doctoral degrees.
The publication volume of Bunken is vast. Some of the regular publications include the English journal NHK Broadcasting Studies (previously Studies on Broadcasting), and several journals in Japanese: monthly research report Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa (Research and Surveys on Broadcasting), Hoso Media Kenkyu (Studies of Broadcasting and Media), which publishes critical essays, and NHK Detabukku,Sekai no Hoso (Databook of NHK, Broadcasting in the World).

InfoCom Research Inc. (Kabushiki Kaisha Joho Tsushin Sogo Kenkyusho) was founded by NTT in 1985. It currently has about 95 full time employees, of which 75 are researchers. With this size, InfoCom is the largest think tank in the telecom research area. It does commissioned work for NTT and its different subsidiaries, as well as for different governmental organizations.

InfoCom conducts research on the global development and situation of information and communication industries and does research and analysis on e-commerce and other ICT related markets. It also takes on commissioned work from e.g. local governments for consulting, proposals and formulation of regional ICT plans and conducts consulting of management strategies and information system development. InfoCom has websites and email newsletters, in Japanese, on ICT sector news for registered subscribers. Most of its commissioned work is naturally confidential, but some reports are published on its website. InfoCom publishes the annual data book Information and communication in Japan in English.

And to close this article a picture of the CGM  (Consumer Generated Media) Night conducted by Danny Choo and other Jbloggers and web developers. This meeting of Media Generators has a strenght to become (someday in the future) an important Media Research Institute.

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