Japan from the inside out

The Japanese public doesn’t trust their media, either

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A public interest corporation whose name translates to the Newspaper and Telecommunications Survey Association has conducted since 2008 an annual survey of households nationwide to determine the level of trust Japanese have in newspapers and television. The results this year, according to the Nikkan Gendai website, show the lowest level of trust ever recorded.

The subjects of the September survey were 5,000 men and women 18 years of age and older. The corporation received replies from 3,404 of them.

Here’s the average level of points they awarded to the different media outlets on a scale of 1-100:

NHK: 70.1

Newspapers: 68.9

Private sector television: 60.3

These figures were from 3.5 to 4.2 points lower than last year. As the website pointed out, that means 30-40% of the public doesn’t trust the news media.

Singled out by the respondents as being particularly untrustworthy was the print media’s reporting on the nuclear accident at Fukushima. A total of 63.1% of the respondents agreed with the statement that the newspapers merely parroted the information provided by the government, government agencies, and the power companies. That figure was higher than the 57% who thought the facts were accurately reported.

The public was also disdainful of the newspapers’ political reporting. Only 25.5% of the respondents agreed with the statement that the newspapers deal fairly with the claims of political parties when those claims differ, and only 24.5% of them thought that reporters maintained an appropriate distance from politicians.

The site asked the former chairman of the Japan Congress of Journalists and University of Tokyo Prof. Katsura Keiichi for his opinions:

It is clear that the Fukushima nuclear accident last March was the turning point for growing distrust of the media. When they reflected on the circumstances of the accident, many people noticed that the media was as much a part of the problem as the government or Tokyo Electric.

It is also clear that their coverage of the consumption tax increase and social welfare policies generally followed the government line, and people understood they were irresponsible not to listen carefully to the views of younger people, who would bear the heaviest burden of these policies. Their election coverage consists of a big hullabaloo over the so-called Third Forces. The more normal and serious a person is, the less they’re interested in him.

While most of that commentary hits the mark, the last two sentences underscore another reason the public distrusts newspapers. It has become SOP for them to include the observations of an academic class of royal purveyors to His Majesty’s Scriveners that allows them a clear path to editorialize while pretending to play it straight. Everyone knows that academics are impartial seekers of the truth as blind to subjective interest as the Roman goddess Justitia, right?

Those two sentences reveal Prof. Katsura as a man of system. There’s a reason the Japanese public is interested in the Third Forces beyond their entertainment value. That interest is in directly proportion to their distrust of the political establishment, which, for the past five administrations, has blatantly ignored their wishes.


It is worthy of note that NHK topped the list. More than a few Japanese have long held the view that the tone of the quasi-government broadcaster has generally been friendly to China and colder to the United States.

An exception I’ve noticed recently is NHK’s coverage of the Obama administration. It is only slightly less worshipful than that of the mainstream broadcast media in the US.

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