Media

Regulatory and institutional structure

Summarise the regulatory framework for the media sector in your jurisdiction.

Media is governed by the Broadcast Act (the Broadcast Act), the Telecom Act, the Radio Act and the Wire Telecommunications Act, and administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The regulatory and institutional structure of broadcasting and telecommunications was reorganised in November 2010 for the first time in 60 years.

The Broadcast Act classifies broadcasting as a basic broadcast (which uses a specific spectrum assigned exclusively or preferentially to a broadcasting station in accordance with the Radio Act) and a general broadcast, which is any broadcast other than a basic broadcast.

A basic broadcast needs authorisation from the Minister for broadcasting in accordance with the Broadcast Act and a licence for establishing radio stations from the Minister in accordance with the Radio Act.

A general broadcast requires registration in principle in accordance with the Broadcast Act. In the case of small broadcasting (for example, cable television or cable radio), a general broadcast requires the submission of a report.

Ownership restrictions

Do any foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services? Is the ownership or control of broadcasters otherwise restricted? Are there any regulations in relation to the cross-ownership of media companies, including radio, television and newspapers?

The authorisation of a general broadcast will not be granted to:

  • any person who does not have Japanese nationality;
  • any foreign government or its representative; 
  • any foreign juridical person or entity; and 
  • other persons or entities, 20 per cent or more of whose shares are held directly or indirectly by foreign persons or entities. 

 

If foreign ownership exceeds 20 per cent, the minister shall cancel the authorisation of the Basic Broadcast Company.

Further, the business operator of a basic broadcast (the basic broadcasting company) may reject a record of share transfer to a foreign person or entity into the shareholders’ list where such transfer would result in foreign ownership of over 20 per cent.

There is no specific regulation to prohibit foreign ownership of newspapers. However, foreign ownership of major daily newspapers is restricted in practice because many publishers of daily newspapers have articles of incorporation restricting foreign ownership in accordance with the Act on Restriction on Transfer of Shares in Stock Companies whose Business Purpose is the Publication of Daily Newspapers.

There are regulations under the Radio Act in relation to the cross-ownership of media companies that attempt to restrict cross-ownership, though some exceptions exist and there are media groups that own television, radio and newspapers.

Licensing requirements

What are the licensing requirements for broadcasting, including the fees payable and the timescale for the necessary authorisations?

A licence is necessary for a basic broadcasting company with broadcasting stations under the Radio Act.

The period for the acceptance of applications for each frequency band shall be set by the MIC for a period of one month or longer and the MIC must give public notice of such period, the zone area where the applicant for radio station licence may install the radio equipment of the radio station, and other particulars to supplement the licence application. After the set periods, no further applications will be accepted.

Such companies obtain a licence by submitting an application to the minister together with a document describing:

  • the purpose of the station;
  • the need to establish the radio station;
  • the persons with whom the radio communication is conducted and communication subjects;
  • the location of radio equipment;
  • the operating area;
  • the type of radio waves, desirable frequency range and antenna power;
  • the hours desired for use of the station;
  • the construction design, and scheduled completion date of the construction of the radio equipment (including equipment installed); and
  • the expected commencement date of operation.

 

The fee for an application is ¥10,200 (payable on submission of the application papers) or ¥7,300 (when applying through the internet).

When receiving an application, the minister shall examine without delay (there is no specific set period) whether the construction design conforms with the technical regulations, whether it is feasible in terms of frequency assignment, and if it conforms to essential standards necessary for the establishment of radio stations.

When determining, as a result of the examination above, whether the application conforms to each requirement, the minister shall issue a pre-permit of the radio station to the applicant designating:

  • completion date of the construction work; 
  • type of radio waves and frequency; 
  • call sign call name, and identification signal specified in the applicable MIC ordinance;
  • antenna power; and 
  • permitted operations hours.

 

When the construction work has been completed, the company must submit a notification to the minister and an inspection must be carried out in relation to the radio equipment, the qualifications of radio operators, the necessary number of radio operators, timepieces and documents.

The minister shall grant a licence to the applicant without delay when the inspection referred to above is satisfactory.

Foreign programmes and local content requirements

Are there any regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes? Do the rules require a minimum amount of local content? What types of media fall outside this regime?

There are no specific regulations concerning the broadcast of foreign-produced programmes.

Advertising

How is broadcast media advertising regulated? Is online advertising subject to the same regulation?

Advertising in Japan is regulated under a number of statutes, including the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations (AUPMR), the Act on Specified Commercial Transactions, and other acts and guidelines in respect of specified industries. There is also a ‘fair commission code’, voluntary rules by trade associations such as the alcohol beverage industry, the real estate industry, the automobile industry, etc, in accordance with the AUPMR to standardise expressions in advertising appropriate for each industry. Because each fair commission code is authorised by the Minister of the Consumer Affairs Agency and the Fair Trade Commission, a member company that obeys its fair commission code will not be censured for infringement of the AUPMR. Each industry generally has its own code of practice in addition to ‘fair commission codes’ in certain industries. These are voluntary rules, but members generally follow these rules once formulated. Advertising agencies and media companies are also generally familiar with, and comply with, the rules specific to their clients’ industries.

Online advertising is subject to the general regulations above.

In addition to the general regulations above, under the Broadcast Act, a basic broadcasting company may not broadcast any advertising that may disturb education by schools when the company broadcasts an educational programme for schools.

Under the Broadcast Act, Nippon Hoso Kyokai: Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), the only public broadcaster in Japan, may not broadcast any advertising of other businesses.

Must-carry obligations

Are there regulations specifying a basic package of programmes that must be carried by operators’ broadcasting distribution networks? Is there a mechanism for financing the costs of such obligations?

There is no basic package of programmes that must be carried, though a basic broadcasting company shall endeavour to make broadcasts to prevent or mitigate any disasters such as a storm, heavy rain, flood, earthquake or conflagration.

Regulation of new media content

Is new media content and its delivery regulated differently from traditional broadcast media? How?

Regulations of general broadcasts (ie, broadcasts other than a basic broadcast) and other media are less strict than those for basic broadcasts that must deliver well-balanced programmes (such as cultural and educational programmes, news and entertainment) and, accordingly, they can broadcast more freely than traditional broadcast media.

Digital switchover

When is the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting required or when did it occur? How will radio frequencies freed up by the switchover be reallocated?

The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting was effected on 31 May 2012 in Japan. The switchover from analogue to digital for satellite broadcasting was effected on 24 July 2014.

Multimedia broadcasting for mobile terminals commenced in April 2012 using 207.5MHz to 222MHz frequencies, which were previously used for analogue broadcasting. The MIC assigned ‘white space’ (which can be used for purposes other than broadcasting even though it is assigned for broadcasting) in UHF to limited area broadcasting.

The MIC has been considering what the 90MHz to 108MHz frequencies in VHF, which were previously used for broadcasting, will be used for.

Digital formats

Does regulation restrict how broadcasters can use their spectrum?

No.

Media plurality

Is there any process for assessing or regulating media plurality (or a similar concept) in your jurisdiction? May the authorities require companies to take any steps as a result of such an assessment?

The Broadcast Act prohibits the centralisation of media, and MIC ordinances prohibit a basic broadcasting company, its owner or its subsidiary from obtaining another authorisation as a basic broadcast from the Minister.

Key trends and expected changes

Provide a summary of key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation in your country.

The Broadcast Act was partially amended on 29 May 2019 to expand the use of the internet by NHK and to improve proper management of the NHK.

NHK is now able to conduct the continuous simultaneous distribution of all broadcast programmes of the core domestic television broadcasting. At the same time, necessary measures are taken to ensure that proper internet usage services are implemented in line with NHK’s objectives and the purpose of the subscription fee system.

Systems for ensuring compliance such as internal control of the NHK, the system for information disclosure to ensure transparency, and the system for formulation and publication of the medium-term management plan were added.

The Japan Commercial Broadcaster Association (the Association) is deciding whether to discuss the possible discontinuance of AM radio broadcasting and the shift to Wide FM radio broadcasting by AM radio stations with MIC.

There are two main radio broadcasting systems – Amplitude Modulation (AM; which uses 526.5 to 1606.5kHz) and Frequency Modulation (FM; which uses 76 to 90MHz) – in Japan. Since 2014, Wide FM has broadcast the contents of AM broadcasting using the spectrum for FM radio (76.1 to 94.9MHz). This is to solve difficulties in picking up radio waves (especially in mountainous and densely populated areas) and as a useful measure in times of disaster, to convey news and information.

Due to the expansion of internet use, profits made by AM radio stations have reduced by half compared to the 1990s. Meanwhile, Wide FM has become popular because of the good quality of its sound. However, broadcasting both in AM and Wide FM is too heavy a burden for AM radio stations. Considering the cost of renewing old equipment for AM radio stations, switching to Wide FM radio stations could be a survival solution for private radio stations.

The Association will require amendments to the Radio Act and other related regulations by 2028, this being the second term to renew radio station licences, which are required every five years.

NHK, the only public broadcaster in Japan, will continue AM radio broadcasting because it is obliged to do so by the Radio Act.

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

6 May 2020