NHK’s 12-member board of governors on Jan. 15 named Mr. Masayuki Matsumoto, vice chairman of Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai), as the public broadcaster’s next president, following sheer confusion in the selection process. The board members, especially board chairman Shigehiro Komaru, shoud feel ashamed at how the appointment was conducted. The decision came only nine days before current President Shigeo Fukuchi’s term ends.

In early 2010, Mr. Fukuchi, 76, former chairman of Asahi Breweries, had expressed his desire to step down citing his age and health. In December, the board tapped former Keio University President Yuichiro Anzai as the next chief. On Dec. 19, Mr. Komaru offered him the post. After repeatedly declining the offer, Mr. Anzai accepted it on Dec. 27. But the next day, the board members heard rumors that Mr. Anzai had attached conditions regarding perks and power over NHK personnel. The board changed its mind and on Jan. 10, Mr. Komaru asked Mr. Anzai to turn down the offer. The next day, Mr. Anzai announced that he had declined the post. He said that the experience was unpleasant and expressed his distrust of Mr. Komaru.

There was plenty of time to select a new president. But the board members wasted time and failed to do any preparatory groundwork. In fact, Mr. Komaru met Mr. Anzai for the first time when he made the offer to him. All this appears to be shoddy conduct. The board members should remember that the board is NHK’s top decision-making body that handles vital matters such as the budget, operational plan and programming policy. This year is crucial for NHK because it will switch to digital broadcasts in July, and it must develop a strategy on the coexistence of broadcasts and the Internet. Unlike the days when the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, the Democratic Party of Japan government has not meddled in the selection of NHK’s president. The board and the new chairman must focus on producing quality programs while shunning political pressure from the government.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.