On July 19, NHK’s morning information program, “Asaichi,” featured a very special guest. Hiroshi Kume is one of the most important figures in the history of Japanese media, initially as a popular announcer in the 1970s and early ’80s, but mainly as the anchor of TV Asahi’s ground-breaking news show “News Station” from 1985 to 2004. Before “News Station,” Japanese TV news was dry and a bit intimidating. Kume not only brought it down to earth, he broadened its scope by injecting commentary that made reports relevant to viewers. The reason his appearance was so surprising is that NHK arguably represents everything about TV he doesn’t like.

He was characteristically blunt on “Asaichi,” which is broadcast live, saying he still believes NHK should be privatized, even though that would likely mean the destruction of existing commercial broadcasters. But as long as the government controls NHK’s budget and upper executive choices, the public broadcaster can never be independent of state authority. Only when NHK breaks free of that relationship can Japan call itself “an advanced country,” he said.

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