Coverage of the July 10 House of Councillors election by the six Tokyo-based terrestrial television broadcasters, including public broadcaster NHK, went down by nearly 30 percent compared to the previous upper house election in 2013, it has been learned.
Broadcasting times were aggregated by research company M Data Co., based in Tokyo's Minato Ward. Because the campaign period in this year's election was a day longer than in the previous poll, broadcasts in the two weeks between the first Sunday of campaigning after the election was officially announced and the day before voting day were subject to comparison. The times did not include candidates' platform broadcasts or political parties' commercials.
According to the data, the total time dedicated to the upper house election this year was 26 hours and 1 minute, down 27.6 percent from the 35 hours and 57 minutes of election-related coverage in 2013. In particular, election coverage went down significantly in infotainment and tabloid television programs, with the drop at around 60 percent among private broadcasters.
"Asa Zuba!", a morning infotainment program on Tokyo Broadcasting System that used to cover politics with enthusiasm, ended in March 2014. NHK's informational program "Tokuho Shutoken" and other programs that covered the 2013 election did not address the latest election at all.
According to a Mainichi Shimbun survey of leading news programs broadcast on weekday nights, compared to 1 hour and 42 minutes of coverage on the upper house election, 1 hour and 18 minutes were dedicated to the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election, and 1 hour and 5 minutes were dedicated to the hostage terrorist attack in Bangladesh. There were days when more air time was given to the gubernatorial race than the upper house race.
NHK, meanwhile, aside from announcers on "News 7" and "News Watch 9" calling on viewers on July 7 and 8 to go to the polls, barely covered the election.
"There's a tendency in television to not deal with political news, since it doesn't raise ratings. And once the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was launched, TV has stopped being critical of the government," says Iwao Osaka, a lecturer at Komazawa University and a specialist in political communication. "Television coverage of the election was even more lackluster also because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party pulled the wool over the public's eyes on what was truly at stake in the election. We are at a point in which we must debate whether such passive political reporting is acceptable as deliberations on constitutional amendment proceed."