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  • We will not interrupt this program

    Posted on September 17th, 2009 keving 12 comments


    TV Tokyo, the smallest of the Kanto region’s six main broadcast networks (channel 12 on the dial), is best known overseas for broadcasting Pokémon and lots of other anime. Within Japan, though, it’s more infamous for never, ever, ever, ever pre-empting regular programming for any reason, from world events to earthquakes to alien invasions, even if every other channel on the dial has switched to emergency news broadcasts. (They do pre-empt sometimes, of course, but you could count the number of times over the past 30 years on your fingers.)

    Classic examples taken from this site:

    Situation What TV Tokyo Broadcast
    JAL plane crash (1985) An RC-car race championship
    1st Gulf War breaks out (1991) Moomin anime, video-game news show
    Hanshin earthquake (1995) Moomin anime repeat, video-game news show, Blue Seed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack (1995) Moomin anime repeat
    Second plane hits the WTC (2001) Quiz show starring pre-op transvestites
    9/12/01 Oha Suta, s-CRY-ed
    2004 presidential election Anime
    Mt. Asama erupts (2008) A travel program about Mt. Asama (3 days later)
    North Korea launches missile into Japan Sea Anime
    Plane explodes in Okinawa (2007) Pokémon

    The most recent example of TV Tokyo’s lazy-bones approach to news coverage came yesterday. The current big pop-culture news story in Japan is Noriko Sakai, a well-known actress/singer who’s involved in a drug scandal. She was released from custody yesterday and held a press conference held by all of Tokyo’s TV stations…except TV Tokyo, which was too busy broadcasting a kids’ variety show tackling the topic of “excuses to give if you fart during class” (above).

    This trend — which started because TV Tokyo (originally an educational station) has a much smaller news staff than the other networks and continues because broadcasting content while all the other stations show wall-to-wall disaster coverage often leads to better ratings — is well-known enough that Sgt. Frog parodied its own broadcast network about it in a 2008 episode.

    The common joke is that if TV Tokyo breaks into programming, then Armageddon has to be coming — which, I suppose, would make sense, because if we’re all going to die anyway, you might as well make sure you spend your quarterly budget as quickly as possible.