Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 11: Room 201

Media Literacy Perspectives on Society and Media in Japan

Organizer: Sally McLaren, Ritsumeikan University
Chair: Midori Suzuki, Ritsumeikan University

We live in a media society, where our daily lives are dominated by media. Television, radio and newspapers are just a few of the forms of media that have become ingrained in our existence. This panel will highlight some of the issues raised in recent research in media and society in Japan, through a media literacy approach. Media literacy can be defined as the ability to critically analyze and evaluate all forms of media, from magazines to the internet, commercials to animation, as well as access to using or creating media and the right to communicate. To exist in the media society, it is essential for citizens to have this ability. However, media literacy does not mean computer skills or the ability to use various forms of hardware or software. Through an analysis of election night television programs, Asuka Tomaru and Sally McLaren's paper deconstructs media reporting of politics from a gender perspective. Gabriele Hadl looks at the Japanese media environment, focusing on civil society and non-commercial media projects. Kyoko Takahashi calls for the need to critically analyse media as social institutions, as well as allowing citizens to take initiatives in media literacy. These papers show how important the media literacy approach is in evaluating Japan's media and society.

1) Sally McLaren, Ritsumeikan University, and Asuka Tomaru, Ritsumeikan University
Gender and Politics in Japan's November 2003 Election Night TV Programs

The way in which the media construct reality should be central to any discussion of gender and politics. This paper will present an analysis of the special live broadcasts of the Lower House election night in November 2003, which reported and commentated on the results. Although the number of women elected to office at the local and regional level in Japan has increased in recent years (currently 9 mayors and 4 governors in Japan are women), at the national level, few women have political power. In the 2003 Lower House election, thirty-four women were elected to the Diet. Out of 480 seats, this amounts to 7.1 percent. How the media construct this situation and the image of women politicians is an integral part of this analysis. In particular, the media have focused on a few female politicians and produced reports exaggerating behaviour or incidents which go against perceived gender roles, from the male viewpoint. Using a media literacy approach we will look at how the media construct politics and gender in society. This analysis is part of the findings of research conducted by the Ritsumeikan University Media Studies Project of Midori Suzuki and her graduate students. It will compare the election night programs of the public and commercial broadcasters and argue that a gender bias evident in these broadcasts through a deconstruction of media reporting on the election. We will propose the necessity for a media policy in Japan that includes a gender perspective

2) Gabriele Hadl, Ritsumeikan University
Citizen's Media – Reading Adbusters in Japan

Citizen’s media (alternative media) are beginning to get recognition by media researchers and policymakers as small but important factors in the media environment. They create communication spaces relatively free from commercial and governmental interest. From a media literacy perspective, these are instances of citizens critically responding to the media, accessing the media and realizing their communication rights. At their best, alternative media succeed at activating their audiences, that is, move them from passive consumption to creative and involved citizenship.

This paper will look at a citizen’s media project (of the sub-category activist media) with audiences world-wide: Adbusters Magazine, out of Canada. Read in over 60 countries and with a network of 10,000 people on all continents, it has inspired citizen’s media projects in Japan as well. What are the relationships between alternative media texts, production and audiences? Where are they situated in the media landscape? What is their relationship to the commercial mainstream? And why should citizen’s media be considered everyone’s business, especially in Japan?

3) Kyoko Takahashi, Waseda University
Media Literacy Initiatives in Citizens' Right to Communication

Over the past several years, the term "media literacy" has become trendy and it appears to have taken on a life of its own in Japan without a theoretical base. Media literacy workshops are held at colleges and women’s centers throughout Japan, and NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting service, as well as the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters (NAB), have a strong interest in media literacy, and have even initiated their own media literacy activities. However, studying the media must involve not only critical analysis of texts, but also critical analysis of the context of the media industry and media as social institutions, as well as the variety of audiences who are in contact with media. In addition, media texts should not be limited to only those we come into contact with daily, such as television programs and newspaper articles, otherwise we would certainly miss out on industry and institutions, which are the other two aspects of the media. As John Pungente, SJ, Director of The Jesuit Communication Project in Toronto, Ontario, noted, it is the citizens who take initiatives in media literacy, and the only way to deal with the media is through grassroots activities. In this paper, I would like to focus on the major activities of the Forum for Citizens’ Television & Media, which has been playing a leading role in grassroots initiatives in the media literacy movement in Japan. It will highlight some of the activities of the FCT since the 1970s.

Discussant: Toshiko Miyazaki, Tokyo University of Technology


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