The U.S media is often criticized for ignoring major news stories or covering them with obvious bias, and more people are becoming aware that this is because the media is owned by just five major corporations – General Electric, Time Warner, Viacom, The Walt Disney Co. and News Corporation.
The media is an incredibly powerful tool for social control, so I’ve been wondering if a similar situation exists in Japan…
On November 12th 2004, The Japan Times reported that the Yomiuri Shimbun group had a stake in 42 media firms…
The Yomiuri Shimbun Group Honsha admitted Thursday that it effectively owns stocks in 42 media organizations under the names of third parties.
Yomiuri said its shareholdings in 12 of the 42 firms violate the limits set by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
The 42 firms include 24 local television broadcasters and 18 local radio stations, said the holding company of Japan’s largest newspaper.
The owner of Yomiuri Shimbun is the 82-year-old businessman, Tsuneo Watanabe, who Wikipedia describes as having “great influence on Japanese sports and Japanese politics”.
That Wikipedia article links to two articles with highly promising titles:
Shadow Shogun Steps Into Light, to Change Japan, from the New York Times, 2006, and The Most Powerful Publisher You’ve Never Heard of, from The Economist, 2007.
The first article includes some interesting quotes that go some way to answering the question, who owns Japan’s media?
He has recently granted long, soul-baring interviews in which he has questioned the rising nationalism he has cultivated so assiduously in the pages of his newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri — the world’s largest, with a circulation of 14 million.
So he used his newspaper to cultivate nationalism. That’s quite an admission.
Indeed, the paper was a main force in pushing for the more muscular nationalism now emerging in Japan. Shortly after becoming editor in chief in 1991, Mr. Watanabe set up a committee to revise the American-imposed pacifist Constitution. If MacArthur’s Constitution emasculated Japan by forbidding it to have a real military, Mr. Watanabe’s Constitution, published in 1994, restored its manhood.
A media mogul with the power to rewrite the constitution? How did he manage that?
Mr. Watanabe joined The Yomiuri newspaper in 1950 and made his mark as a political reporter. Political reporters in Japan tend to succeed by becoming close to a particular politician. …Mr. Watanabe ingratiated himself so much with one Liberal Democratic heavyweight, Banboku Ohno, he became the gatekeeper at his house. Politicians seeking favors from Mr. Ohno would ask Mr. Watanabe to put in a good word. One young politician helped by Mr. Watanabe was Yasuhiro Nakasone, the future prime minister. They remain close.
Such was Mr. Watanabe’s power that by the 1980’s, he helped broker major political deals.
The Economist article gives us an even closer insight into Tsuneo Watanabe’s political influence. For example, it describes how Mr. Watanabe mediated opposition party leader Mr. Ozawa’s first contact with Mr Fukuda about forming a grand coalition last November. It also says that after former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden resignation, “Mr Watanabe convened the crucial meeting of party kingmakers where Mr Fukuda was persuaded to run for the LDP presidency.”
Mr Watanabe is more powerful than almost any government minister in Japan could ever hope to be. Privately, Yomiuri journalists tell you that they have no choice but to follow the editorial line Mr Watanabe lays down. They are nowhere near as forthcoming to their readers.
Not only have the Yomiuri’s readers been kept in the dark about these events, so largely have those of the paper’s four national rivals. All that has appeared so far is just two editorials politely questioning Mr Watanabe’s involvement.
It seems Tsuneo Watanabe and the Yomiuri newspaper’s series of attacks on former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, played a large part in his eventual resignation. And after that series was published, Mr. Watanabe was quoted as saying…
I think I can change all of Japan.
Maybe he already has? His newspaper group dominates the media and he’s incredibly powerful in politics. Before you base your opinions on what you read in the paper or see on TV, consider that your opinions might actually be based on Tsuneo Watanabe’s opinions, disguised as facts!
Now, if I can find a connection between Mr. Watanabe and the American media, we’ll have the makings of a global media monopoly!