Friday, October 02, 2009

The Liberation of NHK

Over at the Foreign Policy website Paul Scalise and Devin Stewart (full disclosure, I know them both) have published a solid defense of the view that despite the election not much is going to change around here.

Theirs is a conventional wisdom argument...but is by far the best one I have seen published so far in English.

Scalise and Stewart may be correct in the end...and yet, I still hold out hope for deep and long-lasting change.

For change does not need to be led by the government. It can be led by the people, by individuals who are no longer afraid of losing their livelihoods to vengeful political operatives.

Perhaps I am fooling myself, but I have been cheered these last few weeks by the sudden depth of NHK news broadcasts. After years of making the news as flat and uninformative as possible, the folks at NHK are acting like newshounds rather than public relations facilitators. They are starting to name names; frame difficult-to answer-questions in their broader social and economic context; point out the (gasp!) political origins of current problems. In the case of the controversy over the Yamba Dam, it has been NHK, not the commercial networks, which has been providing the most balanced reporting, calling a colossal waste of money a colossal waste of money, without redemption--and refusing to let sympathy for the triple-crossed (quadruple-crossed) villagers detract from the gross venality of the project, from beginning to end.

Suddenly it is as though all the latent talent for factual investigative reporting that we knew was there is being given free rein...and that all the bits of dirt that NHK collected but never dared broadcast is being brought out into the sunlight.

Oh, sure, they are likely to show us a lot of dumb stuff in the meanwhile, annoying the whatzit out of us with the fluffy news pieces they started producing to be more like the commercial networks. It will take a while for them to realize that what will really grab us and keep our attention locked upon them will the airing of the stunning material they have kept hidden their vaults and their file drawers.

And I am hopeful also that the new government will not attempt to suppress bad news the way the old one did. After all, why should it? The DPJ and its allies actual WON the August 30 election. They are a legitimate government. They hold power not because of gerrymandering, dirty tricks, institutionalized corruption and media manipulation. They are in power despite having had these and every other weapon in the political arsenal turned against them.

They can afford a little openness.

Let the sun shine in.

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