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Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Obvious program redundancy


In his June 28 letter, "NHK lives up to its purpose," Dan Rosen takes issue with specific comments I made in my Media Mix column of June 18 without addressing the point of the column, which is that one of the main reasons for NHK's current money woes is its surfeit of redundant programming.

Rosen doesn't think NHK needs to be shrewd business-wise as its role is not to pursue the greatest "financial gain." However, NHK's financial problems have become so serious that the government has had to step in, and it has recommended that the public broadcaster cut two of its satellite channels. As an NHK subscriber, I think this is a good idea. Much of the content on the satellite channels is a repeat of stuff shown on NHK's main channel: filler baseball games, program promos or poor copies of entertainment already redundant on commercial stations.

I don't like the idea that the government may end up indirectly administering NHK's money-collecting operations by making the subscription fee legally mandatory. Such a move would compromise whatever independence NHK enjoys as a public broadcaster, but according to the media I referred to in the column, NHK isn't bothered by the idea of a tax.

Under such a system, the 30 percent of Japanese households who, for whatever reason, don't pay their subscription fees would be forced to do so. I don't see how you can implement such a system without an independent oversight body representing viewer interests. Yet Toranosuke Katayama, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's subcommittee on communications and broadcasting, has been quoted by Shukan Asahi as rejecting the idea that citizens should have a direct say in NHK's operations. Providing viewers with a means for feedback -- something the commercial stations do, too -- is fine, but it isn't enough.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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