Circulation figures and viewing rates for leading newspapers and broadcasters show precipitous declines.
According to data of the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, the total circulation of general newspapers including national and local papers decreased from 46.96 million in 2007 to 39.82 million in 2016, a 7.14 million drop over ten years. Since 2013, after the inauguration of the second Abe administration, total circulation has dropped by one million on average every year.
Among publishers, the decline of the Asahi Shimbun is especially notable. In fiscal 2014, the year the publisher was criticized for its false reports on comfort women, its circulation dropped by 640,000 copies, and the downward trend has continued ever since. In April 2013, the Asahi’s morning edition had a circulation of 7.6 million, but as of April 2017, the number had shrunk to 6.24 million. During four years under the Abe administration, the Asahi’s circulation dropped by 1.36 million, according to data of the Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The anti-Abe Asahi is not the only paper hemorrhaging readers. The pro-Abe Yomiuri Shimbun’s circulation dropped from 9.86 million to 8.81 million, a dramatic loss 1.05 million readers, during the same four years. A similar trend is seen at other leading publishers–Mainichi, Nikkei and Sankei– regardless of their stance toward the administration, either pro-Abe or anti-Abe. These big five publishers are consequently loosing advertisement revenue, which is their lifeblood.
The Asahi’s consolidated accounts ending in March in fiscal 2017 marked 400.9 billion yen in sales, down 68.6 billion yen compared with four years ago. Operating profit was down 41% compared with the year before.
A similar trend is also observed among broadcasters. The Household Using Television (HUT), a viewing rate for all day (6:00 a.m. – 24:00) dropped from 43.3% in fiscal 2007 to 40.3% in the first half of fiscal 2017. The HUT during prime time (19:00 – 22:00) decreased from 65.8% to 59.9%, down 5.9 points, during the same 10 years. The average time viewing television on weekdays dropped from 184 minutes to 168 minutes, about 20 minutes less a day, in the last five years, according to a survey of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). (Abridged)