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Population: 127 million
Internet penetration: 93%
14th June 2023

Japan's inflation rate hit the highest level in over four decades, squeezing household budgets. These economic shocks, coming on top of COVID-19 lockdowns, look set to accelerate further changes in the country's media landscape, once characterised by strong daily newspaper and television networks.

Daily newspaper circulation has fallen by around a third in the last decade, from 47.8 million in 2012 to 30.8 million last year.1 Commercial broadcasters, especially ones that provide local news services, continue to be badly affected by lower advertising revenues, prompting debate about changing their licence remit, to allow them to broadcast over wider areas. Meanwhile, the public broadcaster NHK announced plans to reduce the annual fee its viewers pay by around 10% from October 2023 to ease the impact of the cost of living. The corporation will cut one of its satellite channels in addition to reducing AM radio services, as part of its plans to balance the books.

While making money from digital media remains difficult, some traditional news brands are accelerating their online strategies. The country’s leading liberal daily, Asahi Shimbun, took a bold step to put all its articles behind a hard paywall for the first time. At the same time, the paper introduced a new service that enables subscribers to share two to five stories as ‘gifts’ to their friends for 24 hours. Nikkei, a pioneer in pushing digital business models, has also been tightening its paywall strategy with non-subscribers allowed to read just one article a month instead of the previous ten. Meanwhile, the conservative daily, Yomiuri Shinbun, which still has the largest print circulation in Japan (6.6 million), continues to restrict digital access to print subscribers, in a bid protect its highly profitable newspaper business. It still does not offer a digital-only subscription.

Digital-born players are gaining ground in the wider media ecosystem. Abema TV, a streaming TV service co-owned by internet entertainment company Cyberagent and commercial broadcaster TV Asahi, live-streamed the World Cup football in December 2022.2 It was an unprecedented move by an internet TV service to successfully deliver all 64 games to as many as 23 million viewers for free – a stark contrast to commercial broadcasters who failed to broadcast some games despite having paid expensive broadcasting rights.

Yahoo! Japan and LINE announced a merger, streamlining its operation. Yahoo!’s news provision has a massive readership, and LINE is Japan’s dominant messaging app, with its LINE NEWS aggregator widely used by the younger generation. Both already operate under the ownership of Z holdings, backed by SoftBank conglomerate, but the further integration is aimed at cutting costs, driving better products, and more innovation.3

The COVID pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have all raised awareness about the dangers of misinformation and disinformation in a fast-paced and more socially driven news environment. In October 2022, a Tokyo-based non-profit organisation launched the Japan Fact-Check Center made up of journalists and academics. Supported by donations from Yahoo! Japan and Google, it plans to publish ten articles a month on the authenticity of information in online spaces. In a further move to improve the quality of online debate, Yahoo! Japan made it mandatory for users to register mobile phone numbers before posting comments on its news stories.

In March 2023, a controversy erupted in the national diet (parliament) over the government’s interpretation of political impartiality in broadcasting. The opposition party revealed a leaked document showing how the administration of then Prime Minister Abe put pressure on the Ministry of Communications to extend the interpretation to cover a single broadcast programme, rather than judging political impartiality over the entirety of the output.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s closest aide was forced to resign after the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper4 reported a homophobic comment during a background briefing. These briefings are held under the rule that reporters do not name the source, but the paper justified its action by saying it was in the public interest since the comment seriously violated the rights of sexual minorities. Mainichi let the aide know in advance that it was naming him, but the decision has raised wider questions about trust of journalism and the circumstances under which journalists should break promises to protect the anonymity of their sources.

Yasuomi Sawa
Journalist and Professor at the Department of Journalism, Senshu University
Reiko Saisho
NHK, Broadcasting Culture Research Institute

Changing media

In Japan's super-ageing society, where over-65s make up almost a third (29%) of the population, the generational gap in media consumption is widening. Older people still cling to TV and print, but younger groups mainly get news from online aggregators and also from social media.

Pay for online news


Listen to podcast in the last month



Trust in news overall


(=) 17/46

Trust in news I use


Trust in the news remains stable after it bounced back from two years of decline between 2019 and 2020. There is no significant difference in the level of trust in news in general versus ‘the news I consume’, which Japanese academics point to as a unique character of the Japanese market, indicating the consumers' passive behaviour or even apathy towards news.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 63.95

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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