Japan's First Live Streamed Political Debate

Campaign season has begun in Japan. On December 4, 2012 the government officially announced that the House of Representatives general election would be held on December 16. Now each party is eager to get the right attention from the media, as they desperately try to defend themselves from criticism.

Japan's popular live streaming platform Nico Nico Douga hosted the country's first live streamed political debate on November 29, 2012. Presidents from ten different political parties joined the debate.

Cross Party Talks on Nico Nico Douga live

image captured from live stream of Nico Nico Douga hosting cross party talk on November 29, 2012 (with comments on) at live.nicovideo.jp/watch/lv117108126

Pre-debate controversy

Nico Nico Douga had asked 14 parties to join the debate but the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) initially showed concerns, calling the site “extremely biased” and that it would “destroy the good tradition of political debate”.

In response, the president of Dowango, the company that runs Nico Nico Douga, released a document [ja] on November 26, in protest to DPJ for the remarks made by Jun Azumi from DPJ, the acting party secretary-general. DPJ, later accepted their offer with a proposal, which Jiji news reported was that Jun Azumi (DPJ) suggested that an editorial writer from a major newspaper who is neutral should moderate the discussion [ja].

The president of Dowango's original letter of opposition was later withdrawn on December 3 and was replaced with following comment [ja]. (Note: You can read the original document along with netizen's reactions translated in English on japanCRUSH's website.)


I decided to withdraw the letter of opposition submitted to DPJ on November 26 because talks were held with DPJ after submission, and because Yoshihiko Noda decided to join the online debate on cross party talks on November 29.

Nico Nico Douga Live 

Over 1.4 million people watched the debate live on Nico Nico Douga and mirror broadcasts were also available on other Nico Nico channels and also on Ustream.

Here are selected tweets from the cross party talks hashtag #党首討論 about the debate:

@batatetsu ニコニコでやってる党首討論、登壇してる党首たちが「ネットユーザーのみなさん」って呼びかけてるけど、まるで特殊な集団がいるみたいだな。ただの国民だろ。 #党首討論

@batatetsu At the cross party debate on Nico Nico, presidents of political parties are calling us “Internet users” as if we are a special group of people. Come on, we are just any other citizen here. #党首討論

@yosdady 今回のニコ生は、どの党がどうって言うより、「偏った司会者や、評論家は、いらない」ってことだよね。それをTV好きの人に気づいて欲しいな。 #党首討論

@yosdady The livecast on Nico Nico Douga made us realize that “we don't need a biased host or professional critics”, rather (we need to know) which party we should vote for. I hope people who are only concerned about what's on television, realize this. #党首討論

Nico Nico Douga live broadcast cross party talk

The moderators check the comment on white monitor in front of him. image captured from live.nicovideo.jp/watch/lv117108126

Live comments?

While Nicofarre is designed to showcase live comments on its 360 degree surrounding monitor, it did not showcase the live comments during the discussion but only showed comments briefly from time to time when the host decided to break the discussion and move to another topic.

@emu0n 普段のテレビから比べたら開かれた #党首討論 だったけど普段のニコニコから比べたら閉じられた党首討論だった気がします。コメントくらいずっと表示して欲しかった。

@emu0n I think the debate was much more open compared to conventional television broadcasts, but it was not as open as how Nico Nico livecasts normally are. I wish they had shown comments [on surrounding monitors] the whole time.

@ikeda_seitaro うわ、このイベントひどいわ。リアルタイムに視聴者のコメントを流さなきゃ意味ないだろ……。 ( #党首討論 live at http://ustre.am/RfAg )

@ikeda_seitaro Yuck, this event is terrible. It doesn't mean a thing if they don't showcase the live comments from online viewers in real time. (#党首討論 live at http://ustre.am/RfAg )

@sedaikakusa コメントの紹介はいらない。見ていて恥ずかしい ( #党首討論 live at http://ustre.am/RfAg )

@sedaikakusa Please. No need to show these comments. It's embarrassing just seeing them. ( #党首討論 live at http://ustre.am/RfAg )

Image from #党首討論 

Comments from online viewers of Nico Nico, showcased on monitors behind the politicians. image captured from live.nicovideo.jp/watch/lv117108126

There were active discussions on 2channel‘s [ja] online bulletin boards, about the comments on Nico Nico live and its feature that allows bans on particular words. Besides an existing banned word list, the broadcasters of Nico Nico live can set additional words not to appear on the comments stream. Some users complained about this additional banning function, saying that they couldn't post jeering comments during the debate. The default banned word list can be found here* [ja] The archive of the debate can be watched here.

*Please note that the link to NG words includes offensive terms and inappropriate terms in Japanese.

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