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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 May 7 - 13  > Japan’s media bathed in ‘Abe color’
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2014 May 7 - 13 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Japan’s media bathed in ‘Abe color’

May 11, 2014
Akahata Sunday edition

Japan’s mass media have become PR organs of the national government regarding major political issues such as the consumption tax increase, revision of the Constitution, and Japan’s joining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact. In the background lies the close relationship between media executives and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

Abe has repeatedly dined and played golf with chairpersons and presidents of media companies since he took office. The following are companies whose top executives dined with Abe since March last year: the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Newspapers, the Sankei Shimbun, the Nikkei, Kyodo News, TV Asahi, Nippon TV, and Fuji Television Network.

A person involved in one of the above TV stations said that soon after a dinner meeting between the prime minister and the broadcaster’s president, he was told by his boss to replace a commentator of a talk show with another one closer to Abe.

The national administration is also a major sponsor to the media. In fiscal 2013, the Abe government poured 1.26 billion yen in taxpayer money into media advertising in order to persuade the general public to accept the sales tax hike.

On April 1, the day the consumption tax rate was raised from 5% to 8%, all TV stations, including NHK, Japan’s sole public broadcaster, repeated the government argument that the aim of the tax hike is to “maintain social security programs”. They gave no consideration to if the social security system will actually be improved by the tax increase or if there is an alternative.

With regard to the TPP issue, the media claim in chorus that the government should promote the multilateral trade negotiations. Fuji TV insisted in its news program that it is important for Japan to lower tariffs on foreign products.

As for constitutional revision, the media introduce opposing views as well. However, they almost always stress that changes in the Constitution are needed to boost Japan’s military capabilities. They neglect report on ways to resolve disputes with neighboring countries in a diplomatic and peaceful manner, such as the Senkaku Islands issue.

Concerning this situation, Hosei University Professor Mizushima Hiroaki, a former journalist, said as follows:

On the whole, Japan’s media have failed to take a stance separate from the government position. Ideally, journalism should play a role in checking power on behalf of the public. I want program producers to make sincere efforts to find the facts and report them with courage based on a journalistic spirit of independence and objectivity.

Past related articles:
> Abe on popular TV program tries to divert public eye [March 22, 2014]
> TV helps Abe out of crisis [January 15, 2014]
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