IFJ Pledges Support for Union Campaign to Defend Public Broadcasting in Japan

The International Federation of Journalists this week called upon its global network of unions to give their full support to journalists and media trades unionists in Japan who are planning to launch a campaign in defence of public broadcasting.

The IFJ says that crisis-hit NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster, which is facing a drop in public confidence after a series of internal scandals this year, must be transformed and protected from attempts to privatise the service.

“This is a moment of truth for Japanese broadcasting,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The public broadcaster must be reformed into a credible and dynamic defender of public service values providing high quality news and entertainment services. Above all, it must win back the confidence of viewers.”

The IFJ has called on Nipporo, the union representing journalists and media staff at NHK, to work with other unions representing workers in other sectors of the media, including commercial broadcasting workers, to draw up a plan of action for a campaign together in defence of public service values in media.

The crisis in NHK, which follows a series of internal scandals, has seen a ten per cent drop in the income from license fee payments over the same period last year. NHK’s subsequent failure – on the orders of the station’s president – not to broadcast live the parliamentary discussion of unlawful accounting practices at the station further damaged the station’s credibility.

The President has since resigned, but he was kept on as an adviser causing more consternation and undermining confidence in the station’s promises of renewal.

Although NHK enjoys broad public support for programme content, a major problem is that many people worry over close relations between the station and the world of Japanese politics. Following last month’s general election in which the ruling coalition secured a landslide victory, on the back of calls to privatise Japan’s postal service, many now fear the government will look to privatize in other areas – including public broadcasting.

“At this time there is a strong need for concerted action involving the workforce and the public at large to defend the principle of public broadcasting,” said White. “We will support our colleagues at NHK and throughout the Japanese media in their efforts to campaign for change and to bring about reforms that will inspire public confidence and ensure public broadcasting plays a key role in the digital era.”

The IFJ, the world’s largest journalists’ group, has this year backed media staff fighting for public service values in broadcasting in Canada, Great Britain, and across Europe. The Federation’s affiliates in Japan are now considering the next steps to be taken at NHK. Plans will be put before IFJ leaders when they meet in Sydney, Australia, in December.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries