Noda eyes reduced media contact

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda hinted Wednesday that he may hold regular news conferences instead of standup interviews with the press, apparently reflecting caution in dealing with the media.

Since he took office Sept. 2, Noda has been shunning daily encounters with the media in such “burasagari” interviews at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. His predecessor, Naoto Kan, halted such interviews after the March 11 quake and tsunami.

“I’m thinking about a way to take time to respond (to the press) attentively with some frequency,” Noda said at an Upper House Budget Committee session Wednesday morning.

Burasagari interviews, literally meaning “dangling” interviews, involve spontaneous question-and-answer sessions with members of the media and the prime minister as they stand in the corridors of the prime minister’s office.

Meeting the press in such a style became common during Junichiro Koizumi’s stint as prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Koizumi, from the Liberal Democratic Party, gave such interviews twice a day while predecessors had spoken to the press while walking inside the Diet building and the official residence.

Koizumi’s popularity rose by appearing on TV more often through such interviews. But spontaneous interactions with the media can be risky — especially for Noda, who has already been branded by the media as a “safe driver” when it comes to making public remarks.