NHK’s lingering bias favoring the opposition LDP. Anyone else noticing this?


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Hi Blog.  Just a short essay for today.  Has anyone noticed how NHK still reports as if the LDP is in power?

It’s been a month and a half since the DPJ assumed office, the first real bona fide party in Japan’s modern, developed, postwar history to actually offer a change of perspective and an alternative opposition.  They keep surprising me with both their proposals and their competence so far.

But you wouldn’t get that impression from watching NHK.  Yesterday morning’s 7AM news (Nov 2, 2009) had a smidge on the DPJ’s latest policy move, but then had a citation from former cabinet member (who nearly was booted out this election from my local electorate, Ebetsu, and had to be brought back in as a Proportional Representation “Zombie” Dietmember) Machimura Nobutaka, mentioned by name, offering a counterargument seemingly nearly as long as the airtime given the LDP.  Who is he to comment and why should anyone, particularly NHK, care?

I’ve seen this time and time again on NHK, supposedly neutral — or at least pro-government.  Which means it should be promoting the DPJ’s view now that it is the government.  But that’s not happening.  NHK, to me, seems to be treating our current government as if it’s an aberration, a lull or momentary lapse of reason before the LDP gets back in.

I’m not alone in this view.  Christopher Johnson, writing for the FCCJ’s Number One Shimbun of October 2007, commented (excerpt):

THE ELECTION : Two – Is NHK still in bed with the LDP?

State-funded network still airing views of defeated politicians

After booting them from power in a landslide vote, many Japanese were hoping to forget about the Liberal Democratic Party and its 55 years of rule, at least for now.

But not NHK.

The night of the election, when the opposition Democratic Party of Japan trounced the ruling party by a 3:1 margin, NHK paid special attention to the victory of young LDP candidate Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former LDP leader Junichiro Koizumi.

The day after the election, when Japanese were experiencing real democratic change for perhaps the first time, NHK news featured an all-party discussion, where it allowed LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda to browbeat the victorious Katsuya Okada and criticize the DPJ’s plans to reward the public with free roadways and education.

It’s as if the public had never spoken, had never fired Hosoda and the LDP. NHK, which has grown accustomed to propagating the views of the almighty LDP, was apparently the last to get the message that Japanese citizens have had enough of old-guard politicians.

It’s hard to imagine CNN, after Obama’s historic victory, allowing John McCain to shoot the air out of the Democrats, or the BBC hosting a forum to gang up on a party just given a massive mandate to rule.

NHK didn’t stop there. All week, the network played up the race for the LDP leadership, as if anyone cares. It also ridiculed rookie DPJ lawmakers in their 20s and 30s, suggesting they wouldn’t know how to carry out their duties.

And then, moments after the Diet selected Yukio Hatoyama as Japan’s new prime minister, NHK focused yet again on LDP golden boy Koizumi, as if he, and not the DPJ, is the future hope of Japan…

… overall, NHK, as well as many elements of the Japanese and foreign media, has failed to realize that Japan’s election is nothing short of a social revolution, and a blow to the old-boys’ network nationwide… NHK continues to grant the LDP more air time than it ever gave opposition parties in the past.

Rest of the article at:

Anyone else noticing this?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

13 comments on “NHK’s lingering bias favoring the opposition LDP. Anyone else noticing this?

  • I have noticed it from the beginning. NHK even goes out of its way to invite LDP members to comment on the DPJ; usually unchallenged. The DPJ should let NHK stand on its own via ad revenue.

  • At the moment, I disagree about the “competence” part of your post, Debito, when it comes to the new government. Unless you feel that breaching deals with the Americans is some sort of sign of how capable an administration is.

    Other than Minister Nagatsuma shown working his butt off on Labor and Health issues, and Minister Maehara shutting down the dam project in Gunma, what exactly has been accomplished?

    I was no fan of the Japanese LDP because I felt they were two-faced. But now I don’t know what to think about the DPJ.

    The NHK reporters probably don’t know what to report, and so they file the same format stories as always. The DPJ can’t agree on policy so they focus on the barbarians.

  • I am pretty sure there are probably some amakudari LDP flunkies on NHK’s board of directors; no real evidence, but you have to figure with the long relationship between the two, there’s probably some nepotism going on there.

  • Two things:

    First, if the NHK is not giving the new DPJ any voice at all then yes, that could be considered biased, but “still airing views of defeated politicians”? When a party loses an election, does the media have to silence them and not allow any criticisms for the newly established power? Does the DPJ have to be illustrated as the almighty savior from the heaven and nothing else? The narrative seems to suggests that what you want from NHK is not equal points of view but a propagating bias for DPJ.

    Which leads to my second point: if you want to see bias towards DPJ, just tune in to other channels, specifically TBS and TV Asahi. Taro Aso was criticized for every minor blips he ever made, while Hatoyama gets hardly any criticisms about his acts, such as how he spends so much time hanging out with celebrities (if Aso pulled something like that you know the media will be after him).

    The bottom line: to suggest that the opposing voice should be silenced on TV goes against freedom of speech and journalistic integrity.

    — Not what was suggested.

  • It’s not just NHK either. I started watching news coverage more heavily when the elections were coming up and I’ve noticed that on the whole, the majority of Japanese television media is more critical and disparaging towards Hatoyama and the DPJ than it was to Aso and the LDP while they were still in office. Image-wise, it looks like they are doing what they can to try and disparage the public image of Hatoyama quickly as to get people to reconsider their electoral decision.

    Mind you, the Japanese New Media is baised incredibly; it’s like watching Fox News on every channel 😉

  • The DPJ should let NHK stand on its own via ad revenue.

    Now that is a fantastic idea. I wonder how much public money doing so would free up? The DPJ might be able to justify it as a budget-cutting measure. 😉


    When I worked inside that building in the early 90’s NHK executives and news staffers were hyper-sensitive about airing anything that might anger LDP lawmakers as they had control of the broadcaster’s budget. It would seem that with the DPJ’s control of the Diet there would be a desire not to air anything to offend the DPJ majority.

    During newscasts NHK has always been careful to give all the parties with more than a few seats in the Lower House ‘equal time’ when reporting on major political issues.

    If your perception is accurate I could offer a cynical interpretation and say, perhaps, NHK does not expect the DPJ to stay in power for very long and it will be back to ‘business as usual.’

  • “If your perception is accurate I could offer a cynical interpretation and say, perhaps, NHK does not expect the DPJ to stay in power for very long and it will be back to ‘business as usual.’”

    Or, perhaps the bureaucratic machinery that sets the budgets has long been politicized by the LDP and those writing the budgets at this level of granularity are still the same.

  • Anyone noticed how it’s always “The DPJ want to….” or “The DPJ plan to….”? When the LDP were in power, it was “The Government want to….”. Strange

    — Force of habit after five decades.

  • “It’s hard to imagine CNN, after Obama’s historic victory, allowing John McCain to shoot the air out of the Democrats…”

    Man, Johnson must not watch the Sunday news programs. McCain on so often, you’d think he’d won. In other words, this isn’t particular to Japan.

  • aussie in japan says:

    Seeing this blog five years on I thought it might be good to pass a comment. It is seeming more and more that the NHK is the propoganda arm of the LDP. It’s presentation of topics are overwhelmingly LDP oriented. One wonder whether the NHK is following it’s charter rules of impartiality.

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