A new channel for 'Cool Japan'

PHOTO: A new channel for 'Cool Japan'

TOKYO - Japanese TV stations, advertising agencies and other partners plan to establish TV stations that broadcast Japanese dramas, anime and information programs in Southeast Asian countries starting this year, a project that could generate an economic bonanza for this country.

The Japanese companies will contribute capital and programs to the stations, tentatively named "Japan Channel." The Japanese government will provide financial assistance through a fund tentatively named "Cool Japan Fund," which will be jointly established by the public and private sectors this autumn.

Under the plan, a local cable TV station established in Singapore in 2011 with contributions from NTV, TBS and other firms will start airing programs in February.

The Singapore station will air Japanese dramas, anime, food shows and other programs. The Japanese government will indirectly help the project through such means as providing subsidies for dubbing and subtitles.

The fund, which will be established with about 80 billion yen, will provide funding and management assistance to the station.

To expand areas where broadcasts will be available, the Japan side is coordinating a plan in which Japanese anime production firms, TV stations, advertising agencies and other entities will contribute several billion yen to the fund to establish special purpose companies (SPCs) in different countries to manage local TV stations.

The Japan side plans to establish SPCs in Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries in the region and make other preparations to gradually start broadcasting.

It will also acquire broadcasting channels and airing rights of local cable TV stations and satellite broadcasters in the countries.

Through the channels, Japanese TV programs will be aired intensively, and sales and distribution channels for such Japanese products as toys, cosmetics, clothing and accessories related to the TV programs will be established.

The Japanese government is enthusiastic about airing Japanese TV programs in Southeast Asia because it will be able to help related industries enter these countries and promote exports of their products by conveying the charm of Japanese culture and lifestyles to local people.

It is also expected that the project will lure tourists from these countries to Japan. The project may have a huge economic impact.

Many Southeast Asian people are highly interested in Japanese anime and music. Thus officials concerned predict that opening the TV stations will have a significant effect.

South Korea, which Japan sees as a rival in this field, has been enthusiastically conducting its "Cool Korea" campaign since 1997. The South Korean government has played a leading role in promoting South Korean TV dramas, pop music and other cultural products overseas.

This has helped improve the image of South Korean products in general and increased foreign tourists to the country.

In exporting such Japanese content to other countries, there are hurdles including how to procure airtime slots in the countries and how to finance the costs of translation.

Most Japanese anime production companies are small and have little know-how or human resources for entering overseas markets.

Therefore, overseas markets for such Japanese content and products have not grown well, though potential demand is thought to be high.

Thus the Japanese team aims to encourage a "Cool Japan" boom in the countries by securing a framework of local TV stations and providing money and management know-how through the fund.

In 2011, the market for content and products related to "Cool Japan" was about 2.3 trillion yen. The Japanese government aims to expand this to up to 11 trillion yen by 2020, and to 17 trillion yen if sales of Japanese food are included.

The new administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regards the Cool Japan projects as one of its measures to revitalize the Japanese economy.

"The global market will expand to 900 trillion yen in 2020. It's very possible to achieve the goal considering the strong interest in Japanese culture," an official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said.

Seigou Matsuoka, president of the Editorial Engineering Laboratory, said: "It's necessary to link Japan's particular culture with products and industries to increase exports and lure more tourists. I want the government to formulate strategies and circulate money in the necessary places."