Saturday, November 09, 2013

Abe Names His NHK Governors And No One Says Anything

The insurgency began
And you missed it...

- REM, "Begin the Begin" (1986)
Wow, is the below ever bad news for the folks working at NHK -- and great news for the commercial terrestrial networks.
Diet approves NHK governor nominees

Jiji Press

The Diet on Friday confirmed the government-chosen nominees for leadership posts, including NHK governors, at public organizations.

The House of Representatives approved the 29 nominees for 12 organizations by a majority vote at an afternoon plenary meeting, following a similar decision in the morning by the House of Councillors.

This marked the first Diet approval of public organization leadership nominees selected by the government since the Liberal Democratic Party's victory in the upper house election in July ended years of a divided legislature.

The Diet approved the appointment of five nominees for NHK governorships. Of them, author Naoki Hyakuta, former Saitama University Prof. Michiko Hasegawa, Japan Tobacco Inc. adviser Katsuhiko Honda and Naomasa Nakajima, principal of the Kaiyo Academy secondary school, will be newly appointed, while Kyushu Railway Co. Chairman Susumu Ishihara will be reappointed.

All four new appointees have close relations with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which has triggered speculation that Abe wants to increase his influence over the appointment of NHK's next president by sending the four. Current NHK President Masayuki Matsumoto's term ends in January, and his successor will be appointed by the board of governors.

Hyakuta and Abe grew particularly close following a magazine interview. Hasegawa, a conservative thinker, is a strong supporter of the prime minister, while Honda was Abe's tutor in his elementary school days.

Nakajima's school was established with support from Central Japan Railway Co., whose chairman, Yoshiyuki Kasai, advises the prime minister...

First off, and the article alludes to this but does not spell this out, the capacity to nominate and approve any official they want was the one power outside the grasp of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his people prior to the House of Councillors election. The two thirds majority of the House of Representatives the ruling coalition won in December last year gave Abe and Co. the power to override any decision by the House of Councillors -- every decision that is, except a no vote on an appointed position.

Now that the coalition holds a majority of seats in the House of Councillors, any appointment at which the New Komeito can shrug its collective shoulders is now a done deal.

Second, to say that the highlighted quartet of new NHK governors are bad news is an understatement.

- The magazine for which the interview was conducted that brought Hyakuta and Abe together? The embarrassing revisionist hothouse WiLL (Link).

- Reactionary polemical professor Hasegawa? Author of such barn burners as What Is This Thing Called Democracy?" (Demokurashii to wa nan na no ka) which draws a direct line between the spread of democracy and the carnage of World War I and Our Truly Terrifying Constitution (Honto ni osoroshii nippon kempo) which argues that the three pillars of the 1947 Constitution - people's sovereignty, human rights and pacifism -- inevitably lead to revolution, the death of monarchs, the guillotine, terror and Japan's dismemberment.

A sort of well-groomed Japanese Glenn Beck-style world view is hers, it seems.

- As for Honda, what more needs to be said? He was Prime Minister Abe's katei kyoshi ("home tutor") when Abe was a boy (to be fair, member of the House of Representations Hirasawa Katsuei also did a stint as an Abe katei kyoshi). All fine and dandy until one realizes that the prime minister attended a second-class private escalator school, where advancement from one grade to the next and one division to the next was automatic. The PM indeed attended the same school from kindergarten to graduation from college -- meaning that the only entrance exam hell he ever faced was when he was all of four years old.

What need did he ever have of a tutor, then?

[For the record, after tutoring Abe, Honda became a lifetime employee at Japan Tobacco, rising through the ranks. He became president of the company in 2000.]

- What the heck is it with Kasai, whom we have discussed before? How is it that a chairman of a private railway company controls so many appointments at NHK, the national broadcaster? Matsumoto, whom Kasai now reportedly wants forced out, is a former Central Japan Railways executive and a former protegé. Kasai arranged to have him appointed president during the Democratic Party of Japan's time in power. Now with Abe we have the appointment of Nakajima, the principal of a school bankrolled by Kasai's company, to the board of governors.

In the name of all that is decent, what is going on here?

Now that the NHK appointments have received Diet approval, editorial independence and critical reporting might find senior management support wanting for a while.

Oh well, there will always be the great nature documentaries and the pedagogical programming of ETere, NHK's education channel.

Later - The Mainichi Shimbun gingerly editorializes against the new members of the board of governors. (Link)


Robert Dujarric said...

Good question, why did Abe need a tutor? Possible answers:
1. He was a bad student and even in these school a minimum level of performance may be required.
2. His family had high hopes for his future, so they figured it would be good to give him a little help.
3. His parents felt the school was not sufficiently patriotic and wanted him to be tutored in "Yasukuni history."

MTC said...

Robert Dujarric -

As for #3, you mean "real history" -- right? Or is that "far right"?

Anonymous said...

Actually Hirasawa told me himself that it was more of a babysitting position. Abe's parents were often away in his papa's constituency, so the boys needed someone to keep an eye on them.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Fascinating. Sounds plausible too, far more so than the katei kyoshi being hired to try to teach the boy anything.