‘NEWS23′ axed in TBS prime-time shift

by Mariko Kato

Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. will cancel its well-known “NEWS23″ late-night news program in April, it was announced Wednesday.

“NEWS23,” which started in 1989, will be replaced with a news program airing from 6 to 8 p.m. every weekday, a TBS spokesman said.

“NEWS23″ is on from 11 to 11:51 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11:30 p.m. to 12:32 a.m. on Fridays. TBS will still have late-night news, although it may not get as much air time.

On Wednesday, “NEWS23″ drew an audience rating of 5.0 percent in the Kanto region, compared with 10.7 percent for rival program “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi and 6.1 percent for “NEWS ZERO” on NTV, according to Video Research Ltd.

But TBS denied the cancellation is due to ratings.

“The idea is to concentrate our manpower on prime time. This is unrelated to audience ratings,” the TBS spokesman said. “Takashi Yoshizaki, head of the programming division at TBS, announced that the style of the program will change, but its name and the newscasters have yet to be decided.”

“NEWS23″ had been headed by anchorman Tetsuya Chikushi, but after he announced that he had lung cancer in May 2007, he officially retired from the program last March and was succeeded by Kenji Goto, former head of the editorial bureau at Kyodo News. Chikushi died in November.