To conserve power, TV broadcasters should shut down
At a press conference on June 8, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda voiced his support for restarting the No. 3 and 4 Oi nuclear reactors, saying the move was needed to “safeguard the people’s standard of living.”
Businesses in Kansai, which had been facing obligatory power cuts of 15%, promptly breathed a sigh of relief. But the media was critical.
“Frankly, I was surprised,” remarked TV Asahi news commentator Ichiro Furutachi on “Hodo Station” the same night of Noda’s announcement. “The economy is certainly important. It’s the basis of our livelihood. But looking at the Fukushima disaster, I get the strong sense that without peace of mind, the economy is irrelevant.”
The same evening, NHK’s 9 p.m. news commentator Kensuke Okoshi remarked, “It’s said that [the reactors] are safe, but . . . Prime Minister Noda has also made comments to the effect that he would ‘give top priority to safety, and not give in to the pressures of supply and demand.’ From his latest remarks, he’s saying ‘we are moving toward safety.’ My impression is that he’s putting priority on the pressures of supply and demand.”
Shukan Shincho (June 28) provides similarly critical remarks from announcers at Fuji and TBS networks.
“If the TV networks are so adamantly opposed to restarting the nuclear reactors, then in order to alleviate power shortages, perhaps they ought to consider other effective measures, such as halting their daytime broadcasts,” contends author and commentator Chiaki Aso, adding, “If Mr Furutachi would make remarks to the effect that ‘To save power, we are halting our daytime broadcasts, so please turn off the power,’ I think that would be truly great.”
The time of peak demand for power is between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“The commercial channels’ daytime broadcasts are devoted to re-runs,” says Hiroyoshi Usui, professor of media studies at Sophia University. “They have to show something, so they show mostly re-runs of dramas or infomercials. Stations with reserve strengths might run programs about daily living, but most of them are pretty trivial. And if you want to watch news, the evening broadcasts should be enough.”
“There’s no mistaking that halting daytime broadcasts would save power,” Usui added.
Shukan Shincho cited a study by the Nomura Research Institute in April 2011 for promoting household energy conservation. According to the report, in many cases, homes could realize 1.7 times more power savings by turning off TVs as opposed to shutting down air conditioners, based on a calculation that air conditioners consume around 130 watts but a flat-screen TVs consume 220 watts.
“Ordinarily an air conditioner consumes 500 to 600 watts,” says a source at an appliance manufacturer. “But those are the maximum figures, and according to studies, within 10 minutes or so after they’re turned on and the room cools down, their consumption drops to around 100 watts.”
A study by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications estimated that the total power consumption related to broadcasting in 2012 will reach about 15.2 billion kilowatt hours, of which 920 million kilowatt hours—about 6% of the total—will be consumed by the broadcasters themselves. Most of the remainder is consumed by home TV sets. In other words, significant power savings can be realized by turning off TVs.
How much savings? Well, the average 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. audience viewing ratio for NHK and the five commercial networks in the Kanto area is about 30%, or roughly 5.5 million households. If consumption of each TV is pegged at 220 watts, then they would require 1.21 million kilowatts per hour—equivalent to the energy generated by one large nuclear plant—or three plants if you take the country as a whole.
Sports commentator Masahiko Katsutani goes so far as to suggest that the National High School Baseball Summer Tournament games at Koshien ought to be split between early morning hours and at night. “That would also be better for the young players’ health,” he notes.
NHK brushed off the notion of halting its broadcasts, telling the magazine it needed to stay on air constantly “to respond to possible emergencies.” With characteristic non-Euclidian logic, a spokesperson for the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association asserted that members could not halt their broadcasts. “If, on a very hot day, the possibility of a power shortfall were to arise, we would need to notify TV viewers so as to prevent a major power outage,” he explained.