There is less than one year to go before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Since 2016, the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute has been researching the Paralympics and its broadcast coverage. In the process we have interviewed various people involved in overseas Paralympic coverage, all of whom mentioned the Paralympic Games and Paralympic broadcasts had changed society and individuals in a positive way. Their views from different standpoints are reported in this four-part series. The first part features three Paralympians from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany. Claire Cashmore is a British Triathlon athlete. She acknowledged that the London 2012 Paralympic Games, which was held in her home country, had triggered a change in British public perception on persons with an impairment, and talked about her hope for children who would bear the next generation. Danish table tennis player Peter Rosenmeier commended that Paralympic broadcasts had helped raise awareness on para sports, but he also pointed out that although Paralympic coverage had opened up more opportunities for persons with an impairment to appear on general programmes on TV, he found it not enough. Matthias Berg represented Germany in athletics and alpine skiing. He talked about the significance of the Paralympics where everyone can compete with each other equally if certain conditions and environment are provided and referred to the importance of para athletes’ telling their own stories of how they had overcome the barriers as well as his expectations for television’s roles in making society more open for persons with an impairment.
According to UNESCO’s definition, “Investigative Journalism means the unveiling of matters that are concealed either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances - and the analysis and exposure of all relevant facts to the public.” This paper examines investigative TV documentaries that use audio and visual as a genre of investigative journalism. Obviously, investigative documentaries are no different than print media in the context of assuming a role of unveiling the truths hidden behind social events into the public sphere, but the range of targets and approaches fundamentally differ due to the characteristics of the medium. The 1970s saw the organic integration of camera (visual) and microphone (audio), which made it possible to record the real world by freely anatomizing the subjects. Since then investigative documentaries have been cultivating epoch-making expressions as a vital function of television. It also means that creators have been pursuing publicness, which can be described as “publicness free from any domination,” by never forgetting to have reflexive views. Nevertheless, investigative TV documentaries that have been established in this way are now called “out of date” in terms of both content and platform, and, indeed, the number of documentary production is declining. But is it right to treat this just as a come-and go issue? The author explores the theme by revisiting how investigative documentaries were established and what they have achieved.
Akira Sasaki, aged 48, TV director of Yamaguchi Broadcasting is nicknamed “Sasaki of tears.” People appearing in his programs—a single mother busy with childcare, old couple living alone deep in the mountains, or whoever—shed tears a lot and laugh a lot even if they are faced with extreme situations; the strength of their minds and the beauty of their ways of living are vividly portrayed in his works. Sasaki’s production style to closely reflect genuine humanity has won three Grand Prix of the Japan Broadcast Culture Awards, which is regarded as the highest honor for commercial TV program makers. Hiroaki Mizushima—the author of this paper—worked for Nippon TV (NTV), the key station of the network that Yamaguchi Broadcasting belongs to. He detects the influence of Yasuko Isono (1934-2017) in Sasaki’s style. Isono also worked for Yamaguchi Broadcasting as a TV director and a senior colleague of Sasaki. She is known for her intense approach to interviews for extracting the truth at an only one-time, never-repeated opportunity by closing in on the interviewee. On another front, taking advantage of a local station that was in the vicinity of filming locations, Isono spent time on gathering information and meeting people to give depth to the program. Young Sasaki was under tutelage of Isono, a director who was 35 years older than him, which must have been imperceptibly absorbed in his productions half his life. Sasaki’s debut work, Hei no naka no rikuesuto kado [request cards behind bars] (2001), depicts the sentiments of inmates at the Yamaguchi Prison through messages on requests cards for the prison radio. Futari no togenkyo (An Eden for Two) (2016) follows for a long time an elderly couple who live a self-sufficient life deep in the mountains. The recent Kioku no ori [residue of the memory] (2017) drags out war memories that have victims and victimizers intricately co-existing in self. Mizushima traces back the footsteps of Akira Sasaki, a man called “the last disciple” of Yasuko Isono.
Is artificial intelligence (AI) capable of detecting human figures from an 8K ultra-high-definition (UHD) image with a resolution of 33 million pixels? With a resolution 16 times that of HD (2K), 8K broadcasts started in December 2018 in Japan, which enabled UHD TV programs to be delivered to the viewers. Meanwhile, efforts to employ 8K for disaster risk reduction activities are also underway, such as detecting earthquake faults and other disaster factors as well as finding people seeking rescue, by regarding 8K as a “visual sensor for protecting people’s lives” utilizing its UHD imaging technology.1) In particular, aerial filming from a helicopter can extensively survey disaster-affected areas. If affected sites and persons can be instantly detected from an enormous amount of 8K image data, it may lead to further sophistication of disaster coverage. To achieve this, we assumed that incorporating 8K with AI’s image recognition technology would be effective and tested the hypothesis in cooperation with NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories (STRL). This paper reports the results of the test and discusses the potential of 8K broadcasts for disaster risk reduction by reviewing the ongoing efforts of combining 8K, AI, and 5G in other fields such as medical care, security, and infrastructure maintenance.