Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Demonstration against Fuji Television Highlights New Form of Public Opinion

On August 21 2011, over 6,000 people protested against Fuji Television, one of the major TV networks in Japan. People protested that Fuji is biased, massively broadcasting Korean TV series and other Korean entertainment contents instead of Japanese ones or those from other countries. Fuji is also condemned that its engagement in excessive stealth marketing has crossed the line. Demonstrators claimed that so-called “Korean-boom” in Japan is merely an illusionary artifact orchestrated by Fuji.

People also condemned Fuji that while Fuji promoted Korean celebrities, it demeaned Japanese ones. Notably, it is alleged that Fuji has unfairly given positive views about Korean top female figure skater while demeaning the Japanese competitor, Mao Asada. It is claimed that Fuji is engaged in excessively pushy marketing campaigns because Fuji has purchased and owns many broadcasting rights of Korean contents and receives funds from the Korean government.

People responded by demonstrating and boycotting products of sponsor companies such as Kao, a major home product company. Kao spends bulk of their ad spending in Fuji’s program. The demonstration and the boycott highlight (1) the emergence of active public opinion that was previously almost non-existent in Japan, (2) the truth about so-called “ultra right-wing”, and (3) the revealing of structural problems of Japanese media.

1. Emergence of active public opinion

This demonstration could be a turning point of how Japanese forms and expresses public opinion. First, the demonstration was different from any other previous demonstrations because it was truly a mass of ordinary people of diverse background. The participants were housewives, students, and office workers who have no common association to specific political, religious, or ideological organizations. Internet was the platform of communication and people gathered on the basis of shared resentment against biased broadcasting. Simply put, people had no activist background. In the past demonstration by such people was almost non-existent.

Second, the sheer number of people who demonstrated is probably the largest in the last couple of decades. It is also worth noting that despite the large number of people, it was an orderly demonstration without hate speech or flag burning performances that could be common in other countries.

Third, the public opinion was formed through the internet, not mass media. People now actively seek and share information over the internet. The ability of television and newspapers to control and influence public opinion is weakening.

2. The truth about so-called “ultra right-wing”

There were three groups at the site of demonstration: non-political public demonstrators, conservative political demonstrators, and the "ultra right-wingers." There are real differences among these groups.

First is the group of ordinary people who gathered to protest. They were by far the majority on that day. Many of these people never protested before. Second is the conservative group who shares conservative political views.  Their argument is more comprehensive than non-political demonstrators, ranging from protest against Korean occupation of Japanese island Takeshima to claim for increased defense spending. The difference of non-political group and politically motivated group forced the two groups to hold separate demonstrations on that day, which both turned out to be successful.

Third is the so-called “ultra right-wing.” They appeared toward the end of demonstrations, driving in with a few cars with loud speakers. These “ultra right-wingers” typically uses black painted buses and vans equipped with loud speakers, playing Japanese national anthem, praising the Emperor, and giving hate speech. The truth of these organizations is now revealed that at least 30% of these right wingers are actually Koreans or of Korean descend. If fact, these right-wingers are usually very pro-Korea.

The behavior of these “ultra right-wingers” is malicious and is threatening to the general public. The goal of their behavior is to plant bad image of conservatism and to tarnish the image of national anthem and Japanese flag. This is one of the major reasons why Japanese today feel guilty about singing national anthem or showing Japanese flag. Some demonstrators even suspected that Fuji hired these “ultra right-wingers” to disrupt the demonstration and tarnish the image of demonstrators.

3. Revealing of structural problems of Japanese media

The oddity of the aftermath of the incidence is that no major media reported about the demonstration. Not reporting this incidence seems that the media is failing to report the critical social phenomena. It is a very unusual situation and some claim that the Japanese media is worse than the Chinese media which are controlled by the communist party. There is a reason for this. Not only Fuji but all Japanese media are fearing the spread of this incidence.

The root problem, as many demonstrators claimed that it is not an anti-Korea movement but an anti-bias movement, is the heavily commercially motivated marketing by many TV stations. Such marketing is possible because TV and newspaper companies are cross-owned and hence are united. As a result, there are only a few media networks, and the industry is in an oligopoly. In Japan, license to use the wave bandwidth is perpetual and not auctioned once a while as in other countries. Also the problem in both TV and newspapers will never be pointed by either media. What all TV and news media are afraid is that public has already realized that the true problem lies in this dominance of media by a few companies, trying to control public opinion from political debate to what people have to consume.

This trend of active public opinion and realization of structural problems in media will not go away just as globalization will never seize. The only thing that media can do is to buy some time, but that will come at expense of not being able to quickly adapt to the new business environment.


  1. Thank you for this detailed report.
    I noticed a lot of media reporting this event simply as a show of anti-Korean sentiments, which is not fair to the ordinary people who gathered in front of Fuji TV that day to protest against their biased and self-profiting coverage.

  2. I want to introduce this report to overseas people.
    Could you please put pictures of demonstration in this page?

  3. The thing is that they were not there simply to protest the excessive broadcasting of Korean contents by Fuji TV. The Conservatives gathered there to promote Anti-Korean; they were holding signs with anti-Korean rethorics, and holding the imperial japan flag. Protesting against Fuji TV is one thing, but promoting anit-Korean when Imperial Japan has committed so much crualties is another. If they are just protesting agaist Fuji, why would the protesters hold the imperial flag? I have seen the picture. Also, Dokdo is soverign Korean territory. Please don't write articles with full of baises.

    1. Your comment is simply fact distorting and logically flawed. Your logic is such that (1)Imperial Japan is bad, (2)protestors are supporters of Imperial Japan because they are holding imperial flags, (3) and therefore protestors are bad.
      Here is the video of all people who protested.
      I see no imperial flag and therefore your logic is invalid. You might want to go to school first and learn history and find how Imperial Japan's flag looks like.
      As for anti-Korean messages, the harshest words were "no-more Korean drama" which is pretty benign and civil compared to those words used in Korea on street to trash Japan.
      Moreover if Koreans are spreading fact distorting self-satisfactory messages like yours, it is no wonder that overall sentiment in Japan toward Koreans will further deteriorate.