In This Review

Broadcasting Politics in Japan: NHK and Television News
Broadcasting Politics in Japan: NHK and Television News
By Ellis S. Krauss
Cornell University Press, 2000, 320 pp

Beginning with the assumption that the two most powerful institutions affecting citizens in industrial democracies are the state and the mass media, Krauss analyzes in rich detail the unique relationship between Japan's public broadcasting network -- the NHK -- and its political system. Influenced by American ideals of journalistic professionalism and British traditions of state support for objective news, the NHK's neutral reporting unintentionally helped legitimize the postwar democratic Japanese state. Yet the Japanese soon brought their own distinctive twist to reporting by focusing not on the country's leaders but on its bureaucracy. Instead of boring people, such stories interested viewers because the bureaucracy, more than any other institution, impinged so much on daily life. By making the bureaucracy the representative of the state, the NHK rendered politics a faceless, impersonal matter. This book not only advances the West's knowledge about the relationship between journalism and politics in Japan but offers useful lessons about the media that go far beyond the Japanese case.