Japan: Media System

Yasuhiro Inoue

Hiroshima City University

Youichi Ito

Akita International University

Japan is unique in terms of its media structure. Most major newspaper companies in Japan hold their shares internally. Japan’s corporate law allows this internal stock holding in order to prevent external editorial influence and acquisition. Partly because of this, no large media conglomerates are owned primarily by non-media corporations, unlike the case in other industrialized countries (→ Concentration in Media Systems; Media Conglomerates). Another reason for the difficulty in taking over any Japanese media company is that there exist several media ‘keiretsu’ or groups that are closely intertwined in terms of both stock holdings and personal relationships.

The key actors in the keiretsu are the five national newspapers, each of which has close financial and personal ties to one of the five commercial television networks. Regional and local newspapers also own one of the regional and local television stations in their circulation areas. About 70 million copies are published each day by 108 newspaper companies in Japan, which is second to China (96 million, → China: Media System). In terms of per-capita circulation, Japan ranks the highest in the world (633 copies per thousand): more than twice that of the US (→ United States of America: Media System) and six times that of China.

General newspapers in Japan can be categorized into three kinds: national, regional (called ...

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