Plunge Pontificates

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Koizumi and the Media

Fascinating article on how Koizumi has changed the way media gains access since he became PM. I had no idea of the role of media in Japanese politics until reading this.

When Tsuneo Watanabe spoke, Japan's political movers and shakers used to listen. But these days, the editor-in-chief of the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper has a hard time tweaking the ear of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

With control of a daily estimated to have circulation of over 10 million, it might appear that Mr. Koizumi ignores the 80-year-old Japanese equivalent to William Randolph Hearst at his peril. But it was precisely the overbearing presence of such media barons, along with a perceived lack of neutrality in reporting, that prompted Koizumi to overhaul the tight ties between the press and the prime minister's office.

Since Koizumi took power in 2001, there has been a quiet revolution in press relations that has significantly reduced the political influence of people like Mr. Watanabe. His voice is now almost lost among the cacophony of new media that Koizumi has welcomed into the halls of power, and now the esteemed Yomiuri has to fight with run-of-the-mill TV stations, weekly magazines, and tabloids.
Basically, he has decided to give equal access to all sorts of news, something that, according to the article, had not been the norm. As this is the norm in the US, I never thought about the press access being restricted in Japan. Interesting stuff.