In the world of terrestrial television broadcasting, audience ratings have hitherto fulfilled two major functions. (1) They are used by the management of broadcasting stations as a commercial index of their business performance. (2) Television content creators, including producers and directors, use ratings as a social index of the level of popular interest in program content. These two functions of rating statistics are quite separate and should not be confused.
In the academic world, however, audience ratings have thus far been considered almost exclusively in terms of their commercial function. As a result of this one-sided perspective, ratings have been largely dismissed as an appropriate subject for academic research. In the world of terrestrial television broadcasting, however, audience ratings are practically considered the most important index under the programming division leadership system of the current Japanese television station. In comparison with audience ratings, moreover, the penetration of this programming division leadership system is an important factor. However, it has been largely dismissed as an appropriate subject for academic research.
I believe the main cause of these underestimations are confusion over the two areas of research, which I term broadcaster research and content-creator research. Both types of research are extremely important for television studies, but they need to be clearly distinguished. Broadcaster research examines television stations as companies, including sections that are not involved in the direct creation of content, such as programming and sales sections. By contrast, content-creator research examines individuals involved in the actual process of program creation, such as producers and directors. In the academic world, broadcaster research, which is often called sender research, has completely subsumed content-creator research. This situation appears to be the greatest reason for academic underestimation of audience ratings and the programming division leadership system.
Through a synthesis of various studies, the elements of content-creator research may be combined with broadcaster (sender) research and audience research. Thus, the field of television studies can be regarded as an equilateral triangle, consisting of three equally important but distinct elements: audience research, broadcaster research, and content-creator research. This, I hope, will form the basis for a reconstruction of the field of television studies in Japan.