I have been reflecting on the widespread use of ‘flips’ in the Japanese TV news. Almost every channel and program uses them. They are invariably card-like boards a little larger than A4 which the presenter holds up or stands on the desk to convey information.
In most cases the flips repeat and summarize what has just been said in a news clip, presumably for the benefit of those who were not listening properly. The flips come in various types, the basic being a bullet-point list of topics and themes which the presenter usually reads through, often using aids such as a pen or a stick to point to each line. There are also charts and diagrams of various types, enlarged parts or details of a photograph, dictionary definitions of words and phrases, acronyms, sketches and boards which guests or others can fill in using marker pens.
While news networks like BBC and CNN tend to use graphics
softwares on large screens, it intrigues me that most Japanese stations
continue to use the hand made flip. Is this because there are skilled
art-school trained technicians working at Japanese TV stations who insist on
producing boards? Or perhaps we can contextualise the continuing use of flips
within a kamishibai lineage of informal
moral education for the illiterate through story-telling using picture cards?
While programs like the wonderfully titled News Zero do use huge graphics
screens, those little flips keep popping up on the desks of announcers to
hammer points home.
I notice that it is the weather people who get the most hi-tech graphics presentation tools. NHK weather uses a touch screen panel with icons that the meteorologist prods with a stick. I began imagining News Zero or Houdou Station using blackboards, in the style of Joseph Beuys, presenters frantically scrawling points and wiping things out, ending up covered in chalk dust by the end of the program. How beautiful that would be.
My hunch is that the technicians working at TV stations are highly skilled and creative. Rather than move over to hi-tech methods, they insist on making hand made flips, models and characters. In our power-point saturated world this is perhaps no bad thing.
Japanese TV news may be an extension of NHK Educations children’s programs, like the classic ‘Dekiru Kanaa?’ with Noppo san and Gonta – master perruque artists.
I was interviewed for TabBuzz #8.