An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan

Welcome to TokyoFreePress Thursday, March 23 2017 @ 07:25 PM JST
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Don't Tell Me Reporters "without" Borders Knows No Borders

The phrase "Fourth Estate" was coined by an 18th century's Irish statesman Edmund Burke but now it's commonly used to stress the independence of the media from the three branches of a government. Personally I'm inclined to include "independent" experts in sociopolitical issues in the fourth branch of the regime because they can't live a day without the favor from the media.

In reality, though, not a single mainstream media organization is independent of the other estates. That is why someone founded Reporters without Borders, or Reporters sans Frontieres in French, in Montpellier, France as a "press freedom watchdog" 25 years ago. The nonprofit organization, now based in Paris, never refers to itself as RWB presumably because a "W" can stand for "with" as well as "without." Instead, it uses the French abbreviation, RSF, even in an English publication.

I don't know, neither do I want to know, when RSF started releasing its annual press freedom ranking.

With these in mind, let's take a look at the following table:

Country Ranking
No. of Countries/Regions on the List 167 173 178
Canada 18 13 21
China 162 167 171
France 19 35 44
Germany 11 20 11
Italy 39 44 49
Japan 42 29 11
Russia 140 141 140
United Kingdom 30 23 19
United States (American Territory) 22 36 20
United States (Extra-Territorial, incl. Iraq) 108 119 99

In recent years RSF had already discredited itself as an independent body by favoring some countries and disfavoring some others apparently under the influence of obsolete ideologies flavored with liberal bias. But if you look at the most recent standings for the G8-plus-1 countries shown on the extreme right column, you will know these self-styled guardians of press freedom now look really like hordes of cretins.

Just take Japan for example.

Earlier this week, an Italian journalist by the name of Silvio Piersanti gave me an e-mail from his newsroom at Il Venerdi (Friday) to ask a very valid question. He was wondering about the reason behind Japan's quick ascension in the RSF ranking. He needed that information because he was writing an article on the Japanese media.

My answer was that there was no reason, whatsoever, for the phenomenal rise. The notoriously exclusive Kisha Kurabu (press club) system is still there and we don't see any sign that it's going to disappear anytime soon. Reporters and editors in the "information cartel" are still doing a good job by ingeniously standardizing, sanitizing and homogenizing news stories as Laurie Anne Freeman exquisitely described in her marvelous book, Closing the Shop.

The most recent news reports have it that in the face of the free fall of his cabinet approval rating, Prime Minister Naoto Kan is now thinking about joining forces with the largest opposition LDP over the yearend. In disseminating their speculation about Kan's survival strategy, media obscurantists are trying to immunize their gullible audiences for the idea that when something like that materializes, we call it a Grand Coalition. But actually, that's not what it is; it's yet another reunification of the twin parties coming from the same egg.

It's not that Japan's media are particularly in love with Akikan (an Empty Can) as Kan is dubbed lately. But they certainly know the last bastion of the current polity named the 1955 System is this Kisha Kurabu where the Fourth Estate can have a clandestine affair with any one of the other estates.

The first name of the Italian journalist reminded me of Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon. I asked him if he thinks Italy will quickly overtake Japan on the RSF list when the other Silvio resigns as prime minister. In response, he wrote:

"I'm afraid that he won't resign. His ultimate dream is to end his political career as President of the Italian Republic after changing the constitution to give him more decisional power. (His model is his close friend Putin.) If he manages to survive the current crisis (we will know it on Dec. 14th's confidence vote in Parliament) we'll have to stand him for several more years, unfortunately. This coming Saturday, there will be a big march through Rome against Berlusconi. We expect about 2 million people taking part in it. (snip) [But] the real problem is that the majority of Italians like Berlusconi; his Byzantine style of life, his cynical shrewdness."
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Digital Maoism and Six-Word Stories

Jaron Lanier

The phrase Digital Maoism (aka Online Collectivism) was coined by Jaron Lanier, an American computer scientist, composer, visual artist and author, in his May 2005 essay.

Four years later, a growing number of Netizens are becoming fascinated with a new literary format named six-word stories. The slogan there is, "Brevity is a virtue." The one who has led the way to the kiddy stuff since last year gives Ernest Hemingway credit for his inspiration. According to him, the shortest-ever story in the history of literature is the one written by the American Nobel laureate. It goes like this:

For sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

This crap is supposed to be considered profound simply because it's Hemingway. But I suspect that the new breed of American Netizens owe Japanese haiku poets their literary movement more than they owe it to Hemingway.

As I explained in a TokyoFreePress story titled Seamless Transition from Haiku to Keitai, nothing illustrates the essence of Japanese culture better than their obsession with the myth of homogeneity. In literature, the same pathological trait has translated into the 17-syllable format since the 17th century. Without the delusive belief that all the community members shared the same set of word associations, they would never have thought a minimal number of words would be enough to have their messages get through to the receiving ends. This is how the haiku mentality has taken root in this climate.

The myth was invented in the early 8th century by a couple of successive emperors as a tool for pacifying the Japanese archipelago. Ever since their successors have taken advantage of the mental defect to the fullest by leveraging the same method. Even today the media keep implanting into their audience a logic circuit that always ensures a standardized response to a given stimulus.

To Japanese, it has always been true that "less is more." But before long we will be hearing them say, "Nothing is everything," because the typical distortion of Buddha's tenet is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of brevity. This is where the world's most hive-minded people are destined.

It is also interesting to know that if you compose a good haiku (there are some,) you'll get a favorable review which is often hundred times longer than your piece, whereas if you choose to give a full-length elaboration on your thought, as I often do, the longest feedback you can expect from your audience is a 17-syllable-long review. Most typically it's as short as 12-syllables: nagasugite yomu-ki ga shinai, or I don't want to read such a wordy piece. It's against this backdrop that manga now accounts for more than 70% of all the printed publication in Japan. And as you may know, manga are much less wordy as compared to comics in the West. Sometimes they have no speech bubbles.

As Lanier feared four years ago, the same thing is happening in America. The country is now rapidly transforming itself from a diverse culture to a hive-minded society. Small wonder that the six-word format is flourishing in the Obama Nation.

Lanier's May 2005 essay discusses a lot about the pros and cons of the Wikipedian way of thinking, but actually Digital Maoism refers to the general attitude of a broader Internet population. So let me give you a different perspective on this trend here.

You are often asked, or ask yourself, these questions - whether you approve or disapprove of things such as:
Democracy as against autocracy
Republicans as against Democrats (in America)
Liberal Democratic Party as against Democratic Party of Japan (in Japan)
War as against peace
Multilateralism as against unilateralism
Resort to military option as against the "keep dancing at the U.N. ballroom" option
Same-sex marriages
Free market system as against centrally controlled economy
Right to carry firearms
Proliferation as against the oligopoly of the nukes

The list of FAQs goes on and on. Actually it's as long as the hyper-extensive agenda of the sufferer of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in the White House.
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Reporters without Boarders (or Reporters sans Frontieres) was founded in 1985 in Montpellier, France. Ever since the self-proclaimed press freedom watchdog, now based in Paris, has kept a watchful eye on the mainstream and web-based media worldwide.

In the past RSF earned a good reputation for its relatively unbiased way of providing comparative data about how far reporters of each country were allowed to exercise press freedom. But in recent years RSF has been increasingly discrediting itself.

Let's take a look at the press freedom ranking RSF publishes every year. The following list shows how G-8 countries and China fared in comparison with other countries in 2004 and 2008:

Country Ranking
No. of Countries/Regions on the List 167 173
Canada 18 13
China 162 167
France 19 35
Germany 11 20
Italy 39 44
Japan 42 29
Russia 140 141
United Kingdom 30 23
United States (American Territory) 22 36
United States (Extra-territorial, incl. Iraq) 108 119

Anyone in his right mind will have difficulty understanding how RSF came up with its "Press Freedom Indices" when press freedom is something that you can't readily quantify - unless you are prejudiced against some regimes and in favor of some others.

In fact the press freedom watchdog relies primarily on the statistical figures available to it, such as:how many journalists and bloggers were killed, arrested, physically assaulted, threatened and how many media outlets and websites were censored, blocked, shut down and suspended. That means that RSF has to use arbitrary criteria when it comes to nations where such an overt suppression of free press is not commonplace.

Looking at the apparently politicized ranking, you certainly feel like recollecting what happened in these nine countries between 2004 and 2008.

France sank to No. 35 presumably because the pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy became the 23rd President of the French Republic in May 2007. No other event would explain France's sharp descent.
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Some Netizens are Still at War for Their Independence

One of my American friends is a literary agent. She is a very intelligent person. A couple of days ago I received a mail from her in which she commented on some of my recent pieces like this:

"I particularly found fascinating your writing about your father, his knowledge about airplanes and his unheeded warning to the Japanese command of the need to develop an air force. I think in order to tell your father's story to the widest possible audience you have made the right decision to do so online. [But] you may find that the impact of what you are publishing online leads a publisher to contact you to write a book based on this information."

I know her comment was well-intended. But I am afraid she misunderstood me. Firstly, the fact that Japan did not have its Luftwaffe (Air Force) was the smallest part of my father's problem. Secondly, I'm fighting against my own enemies, not my father's. It's just that most of my foes happen to be the descendants of those who stood in my father's way. And lastly, but most importantly, I have no intention to use my website as a stepping stone to something more "real."

After the "dot-com bubble" burst in the early-2000, we saw signs that new crops of Netizens were emerging on the horizon of the cyberspace. In February 2005, Steve Chen and two other young men founded YouTube, LLC. In December 2006, TIME magazine selected You as its Person of the Year. These events gave us a good reason to be upbeat about our future.

But this didn't last long. We've been experiencing a serious setback in the Internet-driven revolution ever since.

In November 2006, Google Inc. acquired YouTube, LLC. Its co-founders may have earned $1.65 billion from the deal, but we Netizens lost much more than that because Google's move actually signaled a counterrevolutionary move to defuse the fledgling Netizens' Republic.

For the part of TIME magazine, it picked Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama as the persons of the years 2007 and 2008, respectively, as if to retract its previous support to independent bloggers, selfless Wikipedians and open-source software developers.

Obviously, the likes of Google and TIME are trying to artfully domesticate and neutralize these wild animals so that the old media empires can claim dominance over the emerging Netizenry. Indications thus far are that the media establishment wants to see independent Netizens eventually go extinct.

In order to show you my way of analyzing the current situation of this warfare, let me try classifying the millions of videos you can watch on YouTube into 9 different categories as below:

Category Description/Examples
1 Stepping Stone Examples include Paul Potts, a former employee of a carphone warehouse company and Susan Boyle, a Scottish church volunteer.
2 Auditioning Most famously the YouTube Symphony Orchestra was formed through online audition to stage a concert at Carnegie Hall earlier this month. I don't think this is what the co-founders had in mind when they employed the "Broadcast Yourself" slogan.
3 Promotional Many people are advertising their books, CDs and DVDs, for free, in order to broaden their audiences.
4 Rerun Many people have uploaded TV programs ABC, CNN, etc. have run in the past.
5 Rare Film Footage or Recording My own video about the legendary aircraft falls on this category.
6 Political Campaign by Independent Maverick Republican Ron Paul is the best example. I have embedded some of his videos in this blog.
7 Musical Performance by Amateur or Semi-Pro Innumerable people are generously sharing their performances just for fun. I have favorited dozens of them on my YouTube channel. A smile-inducing video uploaded by German girls is embedded below as an example. A world filled with their music makes your life really worth living.
8 Educational You can watch tutorials, lectures, religious preaches and many other visual presentations of educational materials. You may generically call them a visualized Wikipedia. Among other things, I found Daniel Barenboim's masterclass series (embedded below) quite impressive, although I don't particularly want to be a master of the instrument.
9 "Vlog" Some people are working on visualized versions of their blogs.

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News-riggers have no right to bash bid-riggers

On February 20, the Daily Yomiuri ran an English translation of the editorial published on the same day by its parent daily, the Yomiuri Shimbun. It was unabashedly titled "Newspapers' status should be respected".

The first paragraphs read like this:

"The important role to be played by newspapers in maintaining and promoting the culture of the printed word deserves attention.

"The Fair Trade Commission has started reviewing its own designation of several categories of products and services, including newspapers, as exceptions to the application of the Antimonopoly Law. The FTC has said it will form a conclusion on the issue by the end of June.

"If the exception granted to newspapers is forfeited or limited, it could spark an intense competition among newspaper publishers for a greater share of the market. That could also fundamentally shake the newspaper industry's home delivery system, which enables anyone to buy the same newspaper at the same price anywhere in the nation.

"The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association opposes an expected change in the the (sic) special status given to newspapers, citing the need to preserve the home delivery system as a means of steadily distributing newspapers to readers and protecting the freedom of speech."
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Interview with a local journalist

I turned to one of my Japanese acquaintances to introduce me to his friend who is a veteran reporter at Kanagawa Shimbun, the leading local newspaper publisher in Kanagawa Prefecture, headquartered in the port city of Yokohama, on the assumption that unlike journalists at the mainstream media organizations, those in the local media can tell what they are doing, on what grounds, and with what consequences.

That's how I could talk to the reporter on September 25 when this person had just gotten through with the hectic time it had in the company-wide scramble to cover the Election 2005. (In this piece I will refer to the interviewee with a pseudonym of "K. Aihara · read more (390 words)

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Yomiuri should drop its preach against vested interests held by lawmakers

New boss of LDP's Tsushima faction

Dear Editors of Yomiuri:

Although it may not be customary to run an article for correction when an editorial is found to be a fallacy, as is often the case with Japanese newspapers, some of your ten-million subscribers feel that you now owe them one. Actually a correction and apology for purposely deceiving your readership are almost three months overdue now.

On August 18, in the midst of the campaign 2005, the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Daily Yomiuri editorialized that "waning of factions [in the Liberal Democratic Party] led to [the] birth of [a] new party." It's all the more impermissible as you boldly used the past tense. But if you had written "may lead" instead, still it wouldn't have been any more acceptable because you knew very well that wasn't going to be the case at all.
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Poll by Yomiuri: 91% of respondents found mainstream newspapers essential news sources

According to October 15 issue of the Daily Yomiuri, its parent the Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a survey on September 17-18 by interviewing 3,000 people of voting age. Of those interviewed, 1,825 people, or 60.8%, actually answered the questions.

The DY boasts: "91% of respondents said newspapers were essential even in an era [of the Internet], indicating that an overwhelming majority of people still consider newspapers to be an important medium for gathering information."

While the reported response rate is not particularly high, we have a good reason for being skeptical about the 60.8% figure. As recently as in 2003, Nippon Television Network Corp., the TV broadcasting arm of the Yomiuri media empire, was accused of manipulating viewing rates. Although the revelation has since been buried in oblivion as if it was an isolated mishap, everybody with a certain amount of commonsense knows it was just the tip of the iceberg.
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"88% of pollees found to be proud of being Japanese"

On September 16 the Yomiuri Shimbun and its English edition Daily Yomiuri reported the results of a survey they conducted on August 6 and 7 of 3,000 people randomly chosen from among the voting-age population. According to the report, 88% of 1,798 respondents had answered they were proud of their nationality.

Pollsters prosper in any democracy in the world, no matter whether it's a sound democracy or a sick and dying one such as Japan.

But if there is any distinctive feature in opinion polls in Japan, it's the fact that both pollsters and pollees think the results of surveys are always reliable and indicative of the real state of things, no matter how the questionnaire is formulated unprofessionally, as it always is, and no matter how the results are analyzed unprofessionally, as they always are.
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"Little white lies" about Koizumi, Tanaka and a mysterious woman

In its August 16 piece titled "Yomiuri Shimbun、et al. play dumb for the 60th time" TokyoFreePress classified media's lies into the following two categories:

Type 1: To tell something that's not supported by the fact, or just avoid mentioning a relevant fact.
Type 2: To tell the fact, and yet hold back the truth by putting it in the wrong perspective, or wrong context.

These definitions are nothing new. But if you carefully watch the behavior of the Japanese mainstream media, you will notice that they are now resorting to Type 1 more frequently than ever, defying the fact that every news story now hits the Net before Japanese reporters and editors can decide to suppress it.

Since the August 8 dissolution of the House of Representatives, the Japanese people have been caught, like a captive audience, in the same old big fuss over the 9-11 snap election.

If there is anything that has a newish flavor in the media's coverage of the 2005 election campaign, it's such rhetoric as:
- A long-awaited modern two-party system is taking root on this soil.
- A sound and strong Japan is on the horizon thanks to the drive by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

I will deal with these Type 2 fallacies in a separate piece to be posted on this blog in the next few days. But for now, I will show you below here some examples of more straightforward fallacies (Type 1) from their coverage of the ongoing campaign:

Koizumi's rape case hushed up by JNPC

Junichiro Koizumi allegedly raped a female university student back in 1967. Our Prime Minister is also suspected to have repeated sexual offense several times even after he got into politics.

In March 2004, former NTV reporter Aiji Kimura lodged a civil suit against the Prime Minister with the Tokyo District Court, singling out the 1967 case. In July, the court quickly dismissed the accusation as totally unsubstantiated.
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Yomiuri Shimbun, et al. play dumb for the 60th time

There are two types of lies the mainstream media are telling their readership and audience:

Type 1: Telling something that's not supported by the fact, or just avoiding mentioning it.
Type 2: Telling the fact, and yet holding back the truth by putting it in the wrong perspective, or wrong context.

They prefer and prioritize the use of Type 2. Although it takes some mastery and more sophistication than the other type, the beauty of Type 2 is it makes the "political sandmen" (Ian Buruma's coined words) look more professional and reliable.

Their readerships and audiences, however, have been growing insecure these days about the health, or even viability, of this society and the system. They have started wondering something may be fundamentally wrong because the total picture shown by the media is looking more and more inconsistent and ill-founded.

That's why the media sometimes cannot but resort to Type 1 which is much simpler and more straightforward. But most of the time, they cannot expect the primitive and transparent lies to work to their satisfaction in the era of the Internet and communications satellites.

One way to shed light on the modus operandi of the today's media is obviously to look back on how they behaved in the prewar and wartime years. If you spare some time to leaf through Japanese newspapers of the first half of the 1940s, you will be surprised to know the modi operandi of the Japanese printed media were primarily Type 2, not Type 1.
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Who was it that said modern two-party system is taking root on this soil?

And another question to be asked of the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Daily Yomiuri would be: Who decided postal privatization is synonymous with postal reform?

The turmoil resulting from the August 8 dissolution of the House of Representatives is getting real ugly day by day.

The 37 intra-party rebels headed by former House of Representatives speaker Tamisuke Watanuki are toning down their rhetoric against LDP Chairman Junichiro Koizumi and his toadyish lieutenants in the face of the unexpectedly high-handed and uncompromising attitude of the party leadership.

The LDP leadership has now made it clear that these rebels in the Lower House cannot expect the party endorsements when running in the September 11 snap election on the pretext that the upcoming general election is a de facto referendum on the postal "reform" bills which was voted down on August 8 at the House of Councilors.

These rebels, whose only sin has lain with the fact that they have their vested interest in the Japan Post to varying degrees and in one way or the other, are increasingly wavering over whether to turn themselves in to the leadership.
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Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) suffers acute aphasia, at times

Aphasia is a loss or impairment of the ability to produce or comprehend language, due to brain damage. It is usually a result of damage to the language centres of the brain (like Broca's area). These areas are always located in the left hemisphere and in most people this is where the ability to produce and comprehend language is found. However in a very small number of people language ability is found in the right hemisphere. Damage to these language areas can be caused by a stroke or physical injury. Depending on the area and extent of the damage, someone may be able to speak but not write, or vice versa, or understand more complex sentences than he can produce. The brains of young children with brain damage sometimes restructure themselves to use different areas for speech processing, and regain lost function; adult brains are less "plastic" and lack this ability. (From Wikipedia)
On the eve of the planned vote on the "controversial" postal "reform" bills at the House of Councillors, an LDP lawmaker by the name of Yoji Nagaoka hung himself with a tie.

The news broke out at around 12:00 noon on the Net and TV. Since he belonged to an LDP faction led by Shizuka Kamei, former chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, who spearheads the intra-party "revolt" against the postal privatization bills, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's pet project, everyone automatically linked his suicide to the fierce infight over these bills.
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Bear in mind there's no such thing as half-truth, you mythomaniacs

And not telling a truth is telling a lie.

In psychology, mythomania (also known as mitomania, pseudologia phantastica, or pathological lying) is a condition involving compulsive lying by a person with no obvious source of motivation. The affected person believes their lies to be truth, and may have to create elaborate myths to reconcile them with other facts. (From Wikipedia)

Everyday the mainstream media of Japan are mobilizing their professional mythomaniacs in their pursuit of disseminating falsehood. The only point where they don't really meet the Wikipedia's description of the symptoms is the fact that they make their living as sandmen whose mission is to sprinkle fallacies all over.

As Bob Kohn pointed out in his "Journalistic Fraud" there are a variety of sophisticated methods to cover up, suppress or distort the truth.

One of the typical and most sophisticated ways is an excessive use of passive voice, often unaccompanied by a noun phrase led by a "by". And of course, the least sophisticated way of doing this is just neglecting inconvenient facts.

In Japan, the nation that ranked No. 42 in terms of press freedom in the annual survey by the Reporters without Borders, the media are resorting more frequently than ever to this option these days because they feel they have almost exhausted every possible subtle/professional trick by now.
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Future of Web-based journalism in Japan

Now that Fuji TV Network of the Fuji-Sankei media group and Livedoor, an Internet service provider which is dwarfed by the media behemoth, have reached an amicable, face-saving and empty agreement after a couple of months of the dirty, un-capitalistic "bidding battle" for a controlling stake in AM-radio broadcaster NBS, some of us find ourselves wondering what the future of the media, printed media in particular, should be like. (See April 19 TFP story "Horie's bid comes to an end in anticlimax, whatever it was all about.") Unfortunately, and quite naturally, the mainstream media cannot address this issue head-on because there, they cannot get around the question about their own survival. For one thing the April 21 issue of the Daily Yomiuri ran an analysis headlined "Battle for NBS triggers debate over journalism" by its staff writer Yoshikazu Suzuki. But his arguments betrayed the intriguing headline because the only specific proposition the staff writer could elaborate on was totally irrelevant to the issue. He argued there that every TV station should further enhance its "closed captioned service" in the interest of 6 million people whose hearing is impaired.

Below here I will try to specifically identify the critical points at issue when discussing the future of the Web-based journalism in this country:
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Horie's bid comes to an end in anticlimax, whatever it was all about

When Takafumi Horie, founder and CEO of Internet service company Livedoor, launched in early February a hostile takeover bid for Nippon Broadcasting System, AM-radio broadcaster within the Fuji-Sankei media group, we thought the 32-year-old maverick was going to make some difference to the media landscape here. (See Feb. 21 and Feb. 24 TFP stories.) At the initial stage, the CEO of Livedoor blatantly assaulted the seiron rosen (see above links) upheld by the printed media arms of the Fuji-Sankei group, such as the Sankei Shimbun. Horie looked to know very well this hypocritical editorial policy is the most vulnerable and weakest spot of the media group. In February, weekly magazine "AERA" published by the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun quoted him as saying "Sankei shimbun nanka ga ikura waa-waa waa-waa ittari, kyokasho wo kakinaoshitari shitemo yononaka chittomo kawarimasen yo." This casual remark quoted here is roughly translated like this: "No matter how ardently the likes of the Sankei daily preach their nationalist cause through their loudspeakers, or no matter how many times (Sankei-affiliated publisher Fuso-sha) revises the (junior-high history) textbooks, that won't make the slightest difference to the society."

However, no sooner could Horie successfully secure a majority stake in NBS, in terms of voting right, than he toned down his attacks against the media group at its Acchilles' heel. And consequently we have quickly lost interest in the whole "bidding battle" launched by the maverick corporate raider against the media behemoth because it now became apparent that his harsh criticism against the seiron rosen had been nothing but a pretext on which to pick the fight.
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Is Web-based interactive media viable alternative in Japan?

This morning on the TV Asahi's "Sunday Project", founder and CEO of Livedoor Takafumi Horie elaborated some more on what for he is seeking a business alliance with the Fuji-Sankei media group.

While Fuji TV Network has virtually barred him from its studios despite the "lofty mission to serve the public interest" it claims to uphold, the Asahi TV and its affiliates, including the Asahi Shimbun, are the only media group that has sided with the maverick media raider, though in a lukewarm way. It has treated Horie somewhat favorably just because the Fuji-Sankei group and Asahi group are longtime archrivals.

Soichiro Tahara, regular interviewer in "Sunday Project", looks on the surface like CNN's Larry King without a holdup suspender. But in fact he is one of those Japanese interviewers who don't, or can't, represent themselves and keep asking invalid and predictable questions.
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What exactly is Fuji-Sankei Group talking about when it says: "Our lofty mission to serve public interest"?

This is to follow up the February 21 TFP story titled "Takafumi Horie launches assault on right media empire."

The "bidding battle" over control of Nippon Broadcasting System between, Fuji TV Network, flagship entity in the Japan's biggest Fuji-Sankei media empire, and Livedoor, JPY 30 billion Internet service provider, took a new twist on Wednesday. NBS announced its board of directors had decided to issue new voting shares on March 24 and give Fuji TV exclusive warrant rights to subscribe these shares in what American securities experts call the "poison pill tactic." The board resolution was announced at a press conference by NBS President Akinobu Kamebuchi. But since in a "convoluted", and often collusive, shareholding structure particular to Japan, the broadcaster is a nominal parent and virtual subsidiary of Fuji TV, the resolution was also a nominal one just to formalize the decision taken on the part of Fuji TV to resort to the poison pill tactic to counter Livedoor's bid for a controlling stake in NBS.

More specifically Fuji TV decided to have NBS issue stock warrants for 47.2 million new shares to be exercised exclusively by the TV network between March 25 and June 24 at a preferential price of JPY 5,950 per share. Since the number of the NBS's outstanding shares stands at 32.8 million at present, the warrant rights will dilute overall shareholders' stakes by more than half when Fuji TV exercises them.

Until the surprise announcement by Kamebuchi, Livedoor's founder and CEO Takafumi Horie by far outsmarted Fuji TV and could acquire a 40% stake in NBS that compares to Fuji's 25%. But now it looks as though Fuji TV has turned the tables on Livedoor. If and when the warrants are fully converted into new shares by Fuji TV, Livedoor's stake will come down to about 16% while Fuji's stake will jump to the neighborhood of 70%.
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Takafumi Horie launches assault on right media empire

Takafumi Horie, 32, founder and CEO of JPY 30 billion Internet service provider Livedoor Co., Ltd., has recently started buying into Nippon Broadcasting System, Inc. to acquire a controlling share in the broadcaster. NBS is the parent of flagship entities of the Fuji-Sankei Group such as Fuji TV Network Inc. As of today Horie could acquire more than 40% of the outstanding voting shares of NBS, raising the necessary funds by having Lehman Brothers underwrite JPY 80 billion-worth convertible bonds with a "Moving Strike" clause. Horie has made it clear by now that his ultimate goal in seeking a majority stake in NBS is to form a broad business alliance with the Fuji-Sankei Group on an equal footing.

Horie has been doing all this in an absolutely legitimate way in the light of the current Securities Exchange Law. Also he looks to have studied very carefully all the implications of the Broadcast Law which stipulates that a broadcaster's license should be revoked if 20% or more of its outstanding voting shares are acquired by foreign investors. At present the law doesn't prohibit indirect foreign control of a Japanese broadcaster. So he could make sure it wouldn't constitute a violation of any law if he went ahead with his bid for NBS in which Lehman Brothers would most probably convert all the CBs it underwrote into stocks of Livedoor.
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Chief Producer at NHK whistleblows in Japanese way

Satoru Nagai, a 42-year-old chief producer at the already scandal-tainted Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), "whistle-blew" at a press conference he staged on January 13. Because of the ambiguous and feeble way he brought up the accusation against whoever it was, the personal ordeal he has gone through with a lot of sweat and tears seems to be getting nowhere. Since the way things have unfolded around Nagai's accusation, however, are pretty much indicative of the situation with press freedom in this nation, I will try to reconstruct the entire chronology below here as far as I can: · read more (1,900 words)
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Japan ranks 42nd in press freedom; What a compliment!

On October 26 Reporters without Borders , a Paris-based independent group of journalists, released the results of its third annual survey on press freedom in 167 countries, accompanied by a worldwide ranking based on its press freedom index. According to the survey, Japan ranked at the bottom of the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

This comparison among the G-7 must be fairly representative of how the Japan's printed media actually fared relative to the other six countries. But Japan came as high as 42nd among 167 countries surveyed, sharing the same position with Chile, Namibia and Uruguay. What a compliment!

Needless to say it's extremely hard to quantify various factors involved there to make press freedom measurable and comparable. But obviously the independent watchdog of press freedom failed to put Japan very close to Russia (140th) or even China (162nd) because of an oversight of a more important factor than "Kisha Kurabu" it cited as the reason for Japan's relatively poor showing.
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