Local governments in the Tokyo area are vying to host the world’s tallest broadcasting tower in hopes of attracting tourist revenues.

They began intensifying efforts in December, when terrestrial digital broadcasting was launched in three major cities, prompting NHK and five commercial broadcasters in Tokyo to agree to promote a project to build a new 600-meter-tall Tokyo Tower.

Shop owners in Taito Ward launched a petition to push construction of the new tower either along the Sumida River or in the neighborhood of the popular Sensoji Temple in Asasuka.

“We would like to make it a noted place combined with the traditional culture of the area,” said Kazuyuki Ishiyama, chairman of a tower promotion preparatory committee.

Taito Ward’s idea is to construct a 600-meter-tall tower, making it taller than the world’s current tallest structure, the CN Tower in Toronto. The total cost is estimated to run between 60 billion yen and 65 billion yen.

Major businesses and individuals will be called on to invest in the plan, and promoters hope to recover expenses in 10 years from observation-deck fees and rental fees from broadcasting companies.

For its part, the Saitama Prefectural Government is hoping to get the tower built in the southern part of the prefecture. “The entire prefecture is ready to host it,” Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda said.

The prefecture earmarked 7.6 million yen in the fiscal 2004 budget for a survey and publicity campaign, and in late March held a meeting with the Saitama Municipal Government to discuss how to land the project.

A nonprofit organization formed by the chamber of commerce and industry in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward meanwhile hopes the tower is built near Sunshine City in front of JR Ikebukuro Station.

Previously, developers had sought to build the tower either in the western Tokyo suburb of Hachioji or at Ueno Zoo in central Tokyo, but these sites were dropped because the structure would impact flight paths.

But with the fiscal 2005 start of terrestrial broadcasting services for mobile phones, efforts are in full sway to push construction of the tower.

Promoters hope to build the tower by 2011, when the nation’s land-based broadcasting is scheduled to be switched to digital from analog.

Asahi National Broadcasting Co. (TV Asahi), the project’s management company, said broadcasting will be unaffected by surrounding high-rise buildings if antennas are placed at higher elevations.

Managers of the existing 333-meter-tall Tokyo Tower are meanwhile feeling a sense of crisis because its role as a radio tower would be threatened, causing it to lose revenue from broadcasters.

Its operator, Nippon Television City Corp., has installed new antennas for terrestrial digital broadcasting and made investments to reinforce the steel frames.

“We can fully cope with digital broadcasting under the current setup,” an official said.

The broadcasters will decide the future course of their agreement by the end of this year, and it might include continued use of the current Tokyo Tower.

“We will make a decision by taking into account the degree of receptiveness of local communities,” a broadcasting executive said.

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