Moves by NHK execs project a poor image
NHK's failure to select a new president despite the imminent expiration of the incumbent's term of office must be regarded as a disgrace.
The state of affairs is significant in that NHK has a grave responsibility to fulfill as a public broadcaster.
NHK is experiencing confusion over whom it should name as the successor to Shigeo Fukuchi, whose term will expire on Jan. 24. NHK's efforts to choose its new president were brought back to square one when former Keio University President Yuichiro Anzai on Tuesday announced his decision not to assume the position even though he had informally agreed to accept it.
It is feared that the current turmoil, if protracted, will adversely affect not only NHK's operations but this nation's broadcasting industry as a whole.
NHK's Board of Governors--the noncommercial broadcaster's top decision-making body, whose authority includes the power to appoint the president--should swiftly select a suitable person for the position.
A bungled nomination
In December, the board selected Anzai from among four candidates to be the new NHK president, and he accepted the offer.
Several days later, however, circumstances took a turn when speculation arose that Anzai had told NHK his acceptance of the offer would require certain conditions--financial or otherwise--to be met. This caused the board to reverse its tentative decision to name Anzai president, and instead, it asked him to decline the offer.
At a press conference Tuesday, Anzai said he had never demanded NHK fulfill any "conditions," brushing aside speculation to that effect. He emphasized he had only asked the broadcaster to explain what kind of "environment" would be accorded to him if he took on the role of NHK president.
We feel the heart of the matter may be the issue of how board Chairman Shigehiro Komaru worked toward the selection of a new NHK chief--rather than whether Anzai had demanded that "conditions" be met.
There is reason to believe that Komaru proceeded on his own with the selection of a new president, but following a proposal--believed to have been put together at the initiative of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry--for Anzai's appointment as chief of the broadcaster.
From early on, Fukuchi had avowed he would quit the NHK presidency after serving his initial three-year term of office. However, it was not until November that the board really began looking for a successor.
Komaru repeatedly asked Anzai to head NHK without forming a consensus among members of the board about who would best suit the position. It also came to light that Komaru had no previous acquaintance with Anzai before approaching him with the offer. All these factors combined to bitterly offend some members of the decision-making panel.
This was apparently an important reason behind the panel's request for Anzai to decline the offer. Komaru will inevitably be brought to task for causing such confusion.
Now that circumstances have reached this point, the board has no choice but to select a new NHK president from a much wider pool of talented people--a move that could even result, for instance, in the promotion of someone from within the broadcaster to the position.
However, it will be no easy task to invite a figure from outside NHK to become chief of the noncommercial broadcaster.
For any influential business leader, the NHK president's annual salary of about 32 million yen would hardly seem satisfactory.
The president often must bear the brunt of scathing criticism during Diet sessions or press conferences.
The NHK president is also required to display the ability to steer a gigantic organization with about 10,000 personnel.
Not an easy job
Today, NHK faces a host of challenges, including a forthcoming complete transition from analog to digital broadcasting. They also include a proposed plan to implement a reduction in TV subscription fees--what the broadcaster has described as an attempt to "pass 10 percent of its revenue" from such fees on to viewers--as well as a plan to simultaneously distribute TV programs both over the airwaves and via the Internet.
Given this, the NHK presidency is a job that can only be entrusted to someone who has a steadfast determination to fulfill his or her duties and display leadership in trying to accomplish that goal.
It is imperative that NHK pick a figure who fully understands what responsibilities the public broadcaster bears and what kind of organization it should become in the future, given that this nation's TV broadcasting services are provided by both NHK and commercial broadcasters.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2011)