I cannot say I am a huge fan of Martin Fackler's everything-including-the-kitchen-sink take on the travesty of Momii Katsuto becoming the president of NHK (Link). I much prefer Jonathan Soble's article on the ongoing collapse of the national public broadcaster's reputation. (Link)
To be frank, worrying out loud now about the deterioration of independence of the NHK news department seems almost coy. After years of simultaneously stolid and enervated reporting, NHK News loosened up and show some of its latent capabilities during the brief summer of the Democratic Party of Japan's turn as the party in power, pulling out of the vault some stories it had long shelved and allowing its reporters to take some liberties.
When it became clear that Abe Shinzo was returning to the premiership, however, NHK newscasts quickly became all but unwatchable. Not for obvious pro-government pieces but for the glaring lack of pieces critical of government.
"Amaterasu! Not another heart-warming tale of plucky Tohoku tsunami survivors trying to cope with the loss of their hometowns followed by cute animal tricks videos culled from the Internet. Aaarggh, switch me one of the commercial channels, quick."
The disastrous and highly visible train wrecks of Momii and Abe's choice for the NHK Board of Governors Hyakuta Naoki (click here to see Michael Penn's awesome photograph of Hyakuta at the problematic rally for Tokyo gubernatorial candidate Tamogami Toshio) are at least taking place in the public arena. Discussion of NHK News's retreat into quiet, problematic self-censorhip (How can one reliably quantify the stories and facets of the news a network has not reported? Long-time viewers and admirers can see the changes happening, but how to prove the existence of absences?) is relegated to the whispering of presumed fools and ideologues.
Far more serious for the serious news hound than NHK's managerial troubles is Tokyo Broadcasting's abandonment in March of the "Asa Zuba!" morning talk show newscast (Link). A new morning program, whose format remains a secret, with a pretty young thing from Nihon Terebi as the main co-anchor, will be replacing what has been, even in founder's Mino Monta's absence, the most consistently progressive, skeptical and entertaining newscast on television.
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