Nurturing Media Professionals to Carry Frontline Operations while Reflecting on the Social Responsibility of Media

Mafumi Fujita, Professor

Mafumi Fujita, Professor
Department of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

Posted Dec. 25, 2018

Faculty Profile
Professor Mafumi Fujita is forging ahead with media research while maintaining a vigorous activity profile within and outside the university.
As head of Hosei University’s Branding Promotion Team, he is also helping the brand strategy communicate the Hosei spirit both on and off campus.

Exploring society through the themes in TV drama shows

My specialty is mass communication theory, and I do research on mass media through analyses and studies of TV drama shows.

TV dramas incorporate the social climate and trends of their era. If you analyze dramas that many people have empathized with, the mood of the time and the lifestyles that people yearned for come into sharp relief. Dramas are truly a microcosm of society.

One of the social norms that influences TV dramas is the outlook on love and marriage among young people. This has changed greatly in the last few decades. In the 1980s, when it was considered natural that you would make a family once you’d reached a certain age, there were many shows that portrayed the confusion experienced by people working toward the goal of marriage. Today, however, the idea of an appropriate marriage age itself is fading. One drama broadcast last year attracted a following for its comical narrative of a couple who treated marriage like a job, drawing up an employment contract and starting married life for the sake of convenience, but ultimately falling in love. Many young people empathized with this portrayal of an awkward couple at a loss to know why people get married. The show was also representative of the times in that it generated ripple effects through proactive dissemination of information online, and songs and dances that caused a buzz.

My TV drama research activities extend beyond the university. I’m currently working as a judge for awards recognizing outstanding television productions, including the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ National Arts Festival and the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association Awards. I also help out with the running of The Galaxy Awards, for which I watch 100 or more TV shows a year. It’s tough, but I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy so many dramas.

Getting Behind the Scenes with Simulated Experience of Drama Production

What I aim to do through seminar class activities is to foster media specialists. First we study the fundamentals including narrative theory and visual semiotics, and then apply them to TV drama shows.

In terms of practical training, students use their sophomore spring vacation to produce an original drama they have planned for themselves. This year we have three teams of students each working on a short film of around 20 minutes in length. I may offer advice, but I have absolutely no involvement in the production process. The six members of each team divide the work among themselves, and create the drama production entirely by their own hands – everything from planning to scripting, filming, casting, and even negotiations for permission to film on location.

Each film will be presented at a screening session at EGG DOME on the Tama Campus at the end of April. The students are also in charge of advertising this event and attracting an audience.

Once they experience the roles played by staff actually working on set, students realize that many different elements go in to the creation of a TV drama. It is important for them to be conscious that the work they’re creating will be shown to people, and to think about what they want to communicate through the narrative. Drama analysis using narrative theory and visual semiotics, which students studied before beginning production, comes in handy at this stage.

I hope that through repeated experiences of simulation, my students will eventually grow into professionals working at the front lines of broadcast media.

Communicating Practical Wisdom for Freedom and Contemplating the Meaning of Social Responsibility

As well as having one of the longest histories of any private university in Japan, Hosei takes pride in its academic breadth, with researchers from every conceivable discipline, and its educational environment, which rewards students’ motivation to learn. How is this shared “Hosei spirit” manifested as a “brand”? In the Branding Strategy Committee that I chaired, we held interviews and workshops for university stakeholders to share their ideas, and formulated the Hosei University Charter, which was adopted in 2016 under the title of “Practical Wisdom for Freedom.” Today I continue to work with the Branding Promotion Team on spreading the brand within and outside the university.

At the same time as I was working on the Charter, I was selected as a member of the Committee for the Investigation of Broadcasting Ethics of the BPO (Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization), and became involved in activities to support quality enhancement in broadcast programs. The BPO acts on feedback provided by viewers, investigating it from an impartial third-party standpoint and checking for any problems in broadcasting ethics.

These activities have prompted me to reconsider impact and social responsibility when disseminating information. As someone involved in the media, I will continue to take these issues seriously and provide encouragement for students aiming to work in the media. It is my hope that this connects with the ideal of “practical wisdom.

Focusing on the Offshoot Field of Broadcast Media and Launching into Research to Establish a New Scholarly Discipline

The basic approach to sociology is to comprehend all things from the standpoint of the people involved. It’s crucial to observe and experience things as they are, not through the filter of subjective beliefs or morals. You may be able to achieve true understanding if you maintain your objectivity and ponder the meaning of the things around you and the real intentions behind people’s behavior. For this reason, I believe it’s important to give new things a go, even if you feel they don’t match your own lifestyle or individual tastes.

When I started out in academic research, mass media research was centered on newspaper studies, and there was virtually no academic analysis of television or other broadcast media. Even researchers who did engage with broadcast media tended to focus on journalism, and their research gained authority as the mainstream approach. I had my doubts about this prevailing tendency, and decided that I would analyze media using an angle different from journalism, and help to establish the field of broadcast studies in contrast to newspaper studies. Looking back, I recall that I enjoyed watching television in my student days. At this impressionable age I found myself deeply moved by dramas dealing with social issues and youth ensemble pieces: they gave me a zest for living. Dramas have the power to stir people’s emotions and generate many social phenomena. A desire to uncover the mechanisms behind this power was the starting point for my own research.

The concept at the root of media research is that media must be socially responsible. When left to market forces, media outlets may tend to favor topicality over truth in their pursuit of profit. They lose their credibility unless they pursue their expressive activities with an awareness of social responsibility. The BPO and other organs have been established to verify that this responsibility is being discharged.

Power in the mass media has shifted greatly in the past few decades, from newspapers to television, and then to the internet. Especially notable is the rise of the internet, which has gained great momentum thanks to its exceptional transmission speed and capacity for diffusion, and now wields huge influence over young people in particular. At the same time, however, I believe that the internet brings many new challenges. I plan to make use of my accumulated research on television as I monitor how the internet can discharge social responsibility as a form of media.

Mafumi Fujita, Professor

Department of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

Born in Aomori in 1959.

Graduated from the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law at Chuo University, and completed the doctoral program in the Keio University Graduate School of Law. Worked at the Research Institute of the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association and as an Associate Professor at Tokiwa University before becoming an associate professor in the Hosei University Faculty of Social Sciences in April 1999. Professor since April 2000. Active in a wide variety of roles both within and outside the university, including program judging panels for the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association Awards and other prizes, as well as being a member of the Committee for the Investigation of Broadcasting Ethics of the BPO (Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization) and the head of Hosei University’s Branding Promotion Team.

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