The economic downturn is affecting the major TV network stations. Various efforts are being made to cut back on expenditures, including the laying off of newscasters Estuko Komiya and Maya Kobayashi. The five key commercial TV stations in Tokyo have suffered losses of up to 10%, according to their financial reports for fiscal 2009, and are under increasing pressure to reduce expenses.
As one TV network executive comments, up to 20 million yen used to be allocated for one-hour variety shows, but current production costs have been cut to a third of what was available two years ago. Apparently they cannot afford to go on locations for programs either. Viewers may not notice that there are more studio filming and fewer outdoor scenes in dramas because of the expenses involved.
A director who was involved in a drama that used a number of young actors explained that all of them, with the exception of the actor with the lead role, were asked to use public transportation to save taxi fares. For early morning shooting, the less-known youngsters had to come to the studio by train the day before, and stayed overnight in the “nap rooms” with other program staff.
Both TV stars and staff complain about the low quality of meals now provided at the stations. No snacks are offered in the backstage rooms either. But will cost-cutting create innovative ideas for TV programming?