NHK’s new president, Mr. Masayuki Matsumoto, a former vice chairman of Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai), started his three-year term Tuesday. It is unfortunate that confusion preceded his selection by NHK’s 12-member board of governors. Mr. Matsumoto learned that he was a candidate for president of the public broadcaster only two days before the board announced that it had chosen him. Board chairman Mr. Shigehiro Komaru resigned Tuesday.

It is hoped that Mr. Matsumoto will do his best to enable NHK to fulfill its task of producing quality programs free from pressure over audience ratings and political interference. He should exercise leadership to create an environment in which NHK workers can freely exchange opinions and give full play to their creativity while making sure that they uphold the integrity as journalists and public broadcast employees.

The board of governors on its part should re-examine its process of selecting the new president. It started the selection work in earnest only in December. On Dec. 8, Mr. Komaru asked then NHK President Shigeo Fukuchi to continue his job. Mr. Fukuchi, 76, who much earlier had expressed his desire to retire because of his age and health, declined. On Dec. 19, Mr. Komaru asked former Keio University President Yuichiro Anzai to become president. But following a rumor that Mr. Anzai attached conditions regarding perks and power over personnel affairs, Mr. Komaru asked him to turn down the offer on Jan. 10. The next day, Mr. Anzai announced he had declined the offer, expressing displeasure.

Communications minister Yoshihiro Katayama declared that he had no intention of meddling in the selection process. But it is reported that before Mr. Katayama assumed his post, the Democratic Party of Japan government was eager to have a former official of a major electronic manufacturing firm appointed as the new NHK president. This apparently applied a brake to the board’s selection process. To ensure transparency, the board needs to set down a clear procedure for selecting the NHK president. It should also make it a rule to make public a detailed record of its discussions after the selection is over.

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.