NHK president says he will step down in January

Kyodo

NHK President Masayuki Matsumoto has said he doesn’t intend to seek another term when his current spell ends Jan. 24.

The decision may complicate the appointment of a new head of Japan’s leading media organization, which faced a rocky road during the last selection process three years ago.

“I fulfilled my responsibility during a single three-year term,” Matsumoto said at a regular press briefing. He said his intention has already been conveyed to the chairman of NHK’s board of governors, Kenichiro Hamada, who has the authority to name the president of the broadcaster whose formal English name is Japan Broadcasting Corp.

Matsumoto said he will firmly decline if asked to continue serving as president beyond the current term.

“From the start, when I took up the post, I was going to serve a three-year single term,” he said.

Matsumoto moved to NHK from Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), where he was vice chairman. He was abruptly picked to be NHK chief nine days before the term of his predecessor, Shigeo Fukuchi, expired.

His appointment came after Yuichiro Anzai, former president of prestigious Keio University, agreed to take the post but later refused, citing his lack of trust in NHK’s board of governors.

Matsumoto is credited with an October 2012 reduction of viewership fees as well as a cut in personnel costs. He is also considered to be behind successful marketing efforts that led to a record 38.49 million viewer contracts in the first half of fiscal 2013.

Some NHK insiders were impressed by what they see as Matsumoto’s unblemished reputation. Others said, however, he may have considered it difficult to stay on because of pressure from some ruling bloc lawmakers who were disgruntled by NHK’s news-gathering activities.

In November, four new members deemed close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, including writer Naoki Hyakuta, joined the board of governors at NHK.

One of the governors said, “I thought Mr. Matsumoto would stay on if he were short-listed.”

Another said: “we have now returned to the starting point in our discussions. We were proceeding carefully to avoid confusion like the last time.”

On his successor, Matsumoto said: “The most important thing is that NHK will develop as a public broadcaster. I hope that (the board) will select someone suitable for such a task.”