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Female TV Announcers as Popular as Singers, Actresses

November 25, 1998

Junko Kubo, left, is one of the many announcers who have become stars in their own right. (Kyodo)

The popularity of female television announcers is at a boil. Magazines carry weekly columns featuring the latest announcer-related gossip; fashion magazines portray them as style trendsetters. The quantity of their fan mail rivals that of the hottest young actresses, and some have even become the target of stalkers. What is this craze all about?

Elusive Road to Fame
Over the past several months, hardly a day has gone by without a female announcer's name appearing on the covers of various photo and men's magazines. From color photo layouts and interviews to stories on love scandals and snapshots dug up from their school years, announcers are now being given the same full-scale and often invasive media coverage as popular entertainers. Some have resorted to commuting from the doorstep of their home to the entrance of their office building by car as a means of evading stalkers, who follow and send them streams of letters. Even the conservative NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) has reported cases of local promotional posters featuring its popular young announcers being torn down and stolen.

The popularity of female announcers is not seen only in the actions of their male fans. The competition among women seeking to enter this field is fierce. One major network was recently overwhelmed by 3,800 applicants showing up at a screen test for only two posts. And recently, an independent seminar course offered by a private university that has produced some 80 regional and national announcers since 1988 garnered 70 registrations for a class with a limit of 20.

Talented, Intellectual, Accessible
Although the world of television broadcasting appears glamourous, there is more to it than meets the eye. One NHK announcer who works the 7:00 A.M. news says, "There is a lot of behind the scenes work that most people never see, like camera checks and preparation for interviews. I'm out of bed every day at 3:00 A.M. and out the door 30 minutes later." Sometimes the work can even be dangerous: in September 1998, an announcer who was demonstrating escape techniques as part of a Disaster Prevention Day story fell from the fifth floor window of a building in the middle of a live broadcast, suffering serious injuries.

One social science professor points to a combination of intelligence, entertainer quality, and accessibility as the reason for fans' fascination with these announcers. The scholar adds that for women, who have fewer opportunities in the workplace, this field holds all the more intrigue.

Announcers first gained celebrity status in the 1980s when a major television network struggling for viewership ratings added a female announcer to one of its comedy programs. The show quickly became a hit and ignited a trend.

Many female announcers marry athletes and actors, and some even go into politics. One television scriptwriter points out, though, that even the most popular announcers have much less freedom and bargaining power within the industry than their male counterparts. In addition, few networks seem willing to groom their talents for long-term positions after the appeal of youth begins to fade. In a ruthlessly competitive market where viewer appeal is everything, today's shining star can quickly turn into yesterday's news.

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Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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