The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Reviews > Music



NHK's "carefree weather forecast" and music

Yoshihiro Kanno
Composer and Professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

Have you noticed the large number of news programs and weather forecasting programs which currently have a variety of music playing in the background? The effect of music on news programs is quite significant. Information which has been colored and produced by broadcasting stations is accepted by us viewers as real information. For the time being, I will leave the details of this process for another article and focus on the familiar weather forecast. The first question is whether it is necessary to color and produce pure information like a weather forecast. A variety of circumstances exist in the program of each private broadcasting company, since a weather forecast is made possible by numerous sponsors. A good example of this is the Yan-bo and Mah-bo Weather Report (sponsored by Yanmar Co., Ltd.).

I would like to specifically address the NHK weather forecast. A forecast is featured multiple times in the morning news programs. This is only natural, since viewers are interested in knowing the weather before they leave their homes. Extremely carefree music is played during the second half of this weather forecast (as of August 2011). Music began playing during the forecast about 3 or 4 years ago and, if my memory serves me correctly, the song changed in May of this year. Some people may ask why I have such a vague memory despite my concern regarding this issue. Still, I felt uneasy the first time that I heard music playing during the weather forecast. Assuming that music started being played on the whim of one of the program's producers, I expected that it would soon stop. After all, NHK has very high self-regulating ability. However, not only is there no sign of the music stopping, it is actually increasing. No music is played during the initial explanation of overall weather conditions and pressure patterns. It is played during the following nationwide forecast and week-long forecast. The same carefree song is played regardless of whether the forecast is balmy, rainy or windy. Even on a day when heavy rain and flood warnings were issues, both NHK and private broadcasting stations played songs or music during the weather forecasting. For example, Fuji Television played a song by Southern All Stars and NHK played the carefree music.

When I raised this subject to students in my class, it created quite a sensation. First, most students stated that they had never noticed music playing during weather forecasts, or that they first noticed after discussing the issue in class. One student gave the opinion that NHK refrains from playing music during the general explanation of weather, and that it was fine to relax and play music during the national forecast since important information had already been conveyed. Another opinion of the many opinions was that background music was fine considering that a weather forecast is like a commercial break time at private broadcasting stations. It seems that students shared a consciousness in which weather forecasts have already been watered down in terms of conveying information. When conducting an objective experiment on students, results showed that the impression of music sways viewers even more when dealing with increasingly detailed information. Even if warned about sudden flooding of rivers and landslides, the feeling of danger is halved when such information is backed by carefree music. I am sure that some people will proclaim that viewers are not so foolish. However, we must once again recognize the great power held by unconscious manipulation of emotions. Furthermore, although the matter seems trivial when limited to the discussion of weather forecasts, I am quite concerned that this seemingly innocent manipulation of information will gradually spread.

In Japan, people who have nothing in mind or carefree and easygoing state are referred to as Noh Tenki.
Furthermore, weather forecast is called Tenki Yoho in Japan.
This article points out the Noh "Tenki" (carefree) way of the NHK's "Tenki" Yoho (weather forecast).

Yoshihiro Kanno
composer and professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

University of Fine Arts and Music with the Master's Degree in 1980.In 1979, he won the Prince Pierre of Monaco Musical Composition Award for his "String Quartet". In 1994, his "Les Temps des Miroirs--L'Horizontale du Vent" for ryuteki, sho, and electronic music became the recommended work of International Music Council sponsored by UNESCO.
Kanno's compositions are founded on three genres--the Western orchestral music, the Japanese traditional instruments, and the computer music. Employing the various elements freely and unboundedly, he has composed a number of pieces based on Japanese idioms and traditions.