Television host and personality Mino Monta, who owns the Guinness Book of World Records title of the hardest working man in television, has agreed to pull his name off his flagship news programs for the TBS network, Mino Monta's Asa Zuba! and Mino Monta's Saturday Zuba! (Link - J). In so doing, Mino and the network are acknowledging that the Mino Monta brand is a net negative for what have been the most visible and lucrative anti-Liberal Democratic Party and anti-bureaucrat news franchises around.
The proximate cause for Monta's fall is the arrest of his second son on a charges of theft. In a truly bizarre incident early last month, the son, a soon-to-be former employee of Nippon Television, purported found a man passed out on the street, purloined the man's wallet and tried to withdraw cash from the man's bank account using the man's ATM card (Link). Monta (real name: Minorikawa Norio), in an act of contrition for his failings as a father, immediately took voluntary leave of his news program hosting duties and appearances in commercial advertisements. (Link - J)
Under normal circumstances, such self-abnegation would go a long way toward tamping down the reactions of Mino's peers in the news and entertainment worlds. Mino's taking immediate responsibility for an act in which he is only tangentially involved might even earn him a bit of sympathy.
However, Mino's anti-establishment populism, as well as a purported history, ostensibly swept under the rug, of being a little too familiar and/or brutish with the many attractive young women he has hired for his programs, made him a huge, easy target for the screaming scandal press, which plays an unofficial role of enforcer for the country's elites. Mino has been a rare strong voice, if an extremely imperfect one, against the status quo. His son's transgression has initiated payback time.
The vitriol hurled at Mino is not likely to destroy him. Television has made him rich, so no matter how many media company and sponsor executives get cold feet in their dealings with him, he is no danger of falling into penury. Much of the basis of much of the enmity is furthermore not ideology or partisanship but just plain old professional jealousy, felt by lesser would-be movers-and-shakers who have been unable to establish their own brand of populism to compete with Mino's mix of effrontery, affection for the little guy and intolerance for official stupidity. Gunning for Mino Monta also represents a welcome change of pace for the dregs of the press, supplanting the usual hounding of young women celebrities for not adhering to good girl stereotypes.
Mino will be back, as in Japanese media second and even third chances are commonplace. His proteges and staff will keep the new programs alive in the interim. Viewers missing Mino's little theatrical eruptions of anger or his ironic feigned perplexity will likely trigger a flipping of the arc of scandal, with the same organizations now drumming him out of town breathlessly promoting his comeback.
Mino's absence from the airwaves, for as long as it lasts, will be a plus for the Abe administration. Selling questionable policies will be easier without Mino's daily prodding of his knowledgeable guests (former Minister of General Affairs and Communications Katayama Yoshihiro is a regular) into calling b*******t on government rhetoric and rationalizations.
Unlike during their first stint in power, Abe Shinzo and his friends, old and new, seem to have all the luck.