NHK targets youth demo with 'Kawaii'

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TOKYO -- Pubcaster NHK is shedding its fuddy-duddy image with the April launch of a fashion program aimed squarely at teens and 20-something women who are obsessed with "kawaii."

"Tokyo Kawaii TV" -- the word combines both "lovely" and "cute" -- is a joint production with Hong Kong's TVB and will first screen in Japan at 12:10 a.m. on April 2. The first season will consist of 19 30-minute programs.

"Kawaii" is a word that those in the forefront of fashion and trends have snapped up, including Madonna, Paris Hilton, Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne to Karl Lagerfeld, producer Kaori Kaiho said.

"Paris Hilton is always using the word, and she is an icon to young Japanese women," she said. "Everyone loves her fashion sense, her way of combining Gucci handbags with Hello Kitty badges."

The first show will highlight the Tokyo Girls' Collection fashion show, followed by episodes reporting on how Japanese trends have been adopted in Beijing and the genteel English coastal resort of Brighton.

"There is no time lag between fashions being picked up by young women around Asia now, and we will be focusing on the styles and trends that these people are making for themselves," she said. "They are no longer just consumers; they are setting the pace of these trends."

It was not long ago that a program on cutting-edge youth trends would have been unthinkable in the conservative corridors of NHK, which is better known for its documentaries and news coverage.

But a series of scandals have rocked the broadcaster in the last three years, including revelations of embezzlement and crimes committed by employees. NHK president Genichi Hashimoto resigned in January after it was revealed that three staff had been involved in insider trading.

"The atmosphere within NHK has changed dramatically," Kaiho said. "All these problems have given us an opportunity to be reflective and consider why we have been losing viewers, particularly in the younger age group.

"Before, producers and directors would make proposals for programs like 'Tokyo Kawaii TV,' but they would never be accepted by management," she added. "It is only now that we are being allowed to take this direction.
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