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Media and Politics in Japan

Media and Politics in Japan

Susan J. Pharr
Ellis S. Krauss
Copyright Date: 1996
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  • Book Info
    Media and Politics in Japan
    Book Description:

    Japan is one of the most media-saturated societies in the world. The circulations of its "big five" national newspapers dwarf those of any major American newspaper. Its public service broadcasting agency, NHK, is second only to the BBC in size. And it has a full range of commercial television stations, high-brow and low-brow magazines, and a large anti-mainstream media and mini-media. Japanese elites rate the mass media as the most influential group in Japanese society. But what role do they play in political life? Whose interests do the media serve? Are the media mainly servants of the state, or are they watchdogs on behalf of the public? And what effects do the media have on the political beliefs and behavior of ordinary Japanese people? These questions are the focus of this collection of essays by leading political scientists, sociologists, social psychologists, and journalists. Japan's unique kisha (press) club system, its powerful media business organizations, the uses of the media by Japan's wily bureaucrats, and the role of the media in everything from political scandals to shaping public opinion, are among the many subjects of this insightful and provocative book.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6355-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Part I. The Mass Media and Japan

    • Introduction: Media and Politics in Japan: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
      (pp. 3-18)

      Few questions are as intrinsically fascinating and of obvious importance for understanding the present and the future of industrial democracies as those that concern the role of the media in society and politics. At the U.S. political conventions in the summer of 1992, media representatives far outnumbered the presumed “real” players, the delegates. Lingering television images of town halls, memories of billionaire Ross Perot on camera with graphs in hand, and news of a media-stung Democratic president’s 1994 moves to reshuffle his team of spokespersons and spin-doctors once again: these are vivid reminders of the omnipresence of the media in...

    • 1 Media as Trickster in Japan: A Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 19-44)

      No institution in advanced industrial societies is more elusive as to its role and its effects on politics than the media. Numerous books on modern political systems make no more than passing reference to the media, listing the major daily newspapers and their circulations, per-capita television viewing time, and so on, and then moving on to consider the “real” institutions of government and the policies that emerge from them. The great bulk of political science research in the 1990s—whatever its focus or methodological approach—hardly acknowledges that the media exist as a distinct force in political and social life....

  6. Part II. Media Organizations and Behavior

    • 2 Mass Media as Business Organizations: A U.S.–Japanese Comparison
      (pp. 47-88)

      Mass media organizations rank among the major business firms in highly industrialized societies,¹ and the business side of the media is a continuing focus of research, regulatory scrutiny, and media attention. Changes in the strategies or performance of mass media firms, mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and start-ups, management difficulties and labor problems in media industries are reminders that media organizations are businesses, with business goals of returns on investment and vulnerabilities to changing business conditions. Such issues evoke long-standing anxieties about the potentially contradictory pulls between the two roles of mass media firms: as providers of the critically important public...

    • 3 Portraying the State: NHK Television News and Politics
      (pp. 89-130)

      In most industrialized democracies in the 1990s, television has become a main, if notthemain, source of information about government and politics for the average citizen, and thus it has become the major creator of images of what the state is like, how it operates, and how it relates to society. This chapter analyzes how Japan’s major television channel, NHK (Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation), has portrayed the state in its main television news program, the 7 p.m. news. It explores why NHK depicted the state as it did and the possible effects on politics of such...

  7. Part III. The Role of the Media in Politics and Policy

    • 4 Japan’s Press and the Politics of Scandal
      (pp. 133-164)

      Of the many functions filled by the press in a modern democracy like Japan, none is more essential than that of “watchdog,” ferreting out and exposing the wrongdoing and incompetence of those in authority. Governments everywhere seek to transmit only what makes them appear wise, efficient, and good, and to hide whatever will arouse anger, shame, or ridicule and thus decrease support for the regime and its incumbents. Indeed, government officials often seem to lose the distinction between what is merely embarrassing to an individual or party and what may endanger national interest or security—that is, between the controversial...

    • 5 Television and Political Turmoil: Japan’s Summer of 1993
      (pp. 165-186)

      On October 25, 1993, millions of Japanese gathered around their television sets to witness an unprecedented political showdown. The conflict—which took place within the stately chambers of the national parliament building and was broadcast on live television—pitted the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the conservative party that had dominated Japanese politics for nearly four decades, against the Japanese press. The occasion for this confrontation: the appearance of former TV Asahi news executive Sadayoshi Tsubaki before the Japanese Diet. Tsubaki, the first journalist ever summoned to testify before the Diet, stood accused of slanting his network’s coverage of the LDP...

    • 6 Media and Policy Change in Japan
      (pp. 187-212)

      In the United States the mass media are often called the “fourth branch of government,” on a par with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Japanese mass media have similarly been called the “fourth authority”(daiyon no kenryoku), ranked along with the familiar power triumvirate ofsei-kan-zai, or the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the bureaucracy, and big business.¹ Their pervasive influence is well attested by leaders of various social groups who were asked in 1980 which groups had the most influence over daily life. The mass media(masu komi)were ranked number one, markedly higher than the bureaucracy,...

    • 7 Media and Political Protest: The Bullet Train Movements
      (pp. 213-242)

      Leaders of protest movements face difficult dilemmas in dealing with the mass media, which can be both an invaluable resource and a devastating enemy. As Todd Gitlin has noted, “people find themselves relying on the media for concepts, for images of their heroes, for guiding information, for emotional charges, for recognition of public values, for symbols in general, even for language.”¹ A sixty-second spot on the evening news gives movement leaders access to a vast audience, larger than they could reach in a lifetime of giving speeches at community rallies, and enables them to send messages directly to powerholders.²


    • 8 Media Coverage of U.S.–Japanese Relations
      (pp. 243-274)

      Until recently one of the important factors in the U.S.–Japanese relationship received little attention: the role of the mass media. Are the media merely the “messenger,” objectively reporting events that take place without making an independent contribution to the relationship? Or do the mass media make major independent contributions in determining the nature of the bilateral linkage? The answers to these questions are almost impossible to ascertain, but in this chapter I will argue that because the mediaarethe medium, they affect the message, and because theyarethe channel, they affect the conflict. The structure and process...

  8. Part IV. Media and the Public

    • 9 Media Exposure and the Quality of Political Participation in Japan
      (pp. 277-312)

      The growth of the mass media throughout the twentieth century has profoundly altered our world. It has expanded our horizons and changed the very nature of mass electorates, particularly in the media-intensive advanced industrial democracies. In particular, the mass media have helped to make possible the process of cognitive mobilization described by Ronald Inglehart, by which people become sufficiently informed about and interested in policy and politics to take part in political life.¹ A highly educated, politically savvy citizen behaves very differently in the political arena than does an uneducated, ill-informed citizen. A high concentration of the latter type of...

    • 10 Media in Electoral Campaigning in Japan and the United States
      (pp. 313-338)

      The growing importance of mass media in American political culture in the 1990s has thrown into question a vast body of descriptive and theoretical work in the areas of voting and mass communications dating back to the 1950s. Much of that work maintained that the key determinants of voting behavior were political party loyalty and the candidate’s image. Issues were thought to be secondary, and the mass media were viewed as far less important to decision making than was personal communication.¹ Since the 1960s the supposed universality of those theories has been discredited; they were found to be rooted in...

    • 11 Media Agenda Setting in a Local Election: The Japanese Case
      (pp. 339-352)

      The news and other mass media are said to serve as “gatekeepers” for information in society. The assumption is that by selecting and emphasizing issues or topics, the media ensure that the public will come to regard them as important or worthy of attention. Simply put, the media can set the public agenda and determine what people think about.¹ By setting the agenda, they play an important role in constructing social reality. In contemporary societies, most important social, political, and economic events occur beyond the immediate reach of our senses. We depend on media portrayals of reality to understand the...

  9. Part V. Media and Politics

    • 12 The Mass Media and Japanese Politics: Effects and Consequences
      (pp. 355-372)

      What role do the mass media play in Japan’s political democracy? As in all less-than-ideal democracies—which is to say, all existing ones—the question may be better phrased as, To what extent do the media play a democratic role, and how, and to what extent do they not, and why? The stereotype of Japan views it as a coherent, consensual society with a powerful state, ruled by a single party for most of the postwar period. How are the media helping to create pluralism, conflict, and diversity in Japan, and how are they reinforcing the homogeneity, consensus, and maintenance...

    (pp. 373-374)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 375-390)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 391-391)