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July 2008
* Editors from Japan, China and South Korea Hold 1st Gathering
* Newspapers Issue Extra Editions after Akihabara Stabbing Shock
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--7 Major Newspaper Firms Post Revenue Declines in 2007
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Story of the Month>>>
Top Court Strikes Down NHK Penalty over °∆Comfort Women°… Self-Censorship

Editors from Japan, China and South Korea Hold 1st Gathering

Senior media editors from Japan, China and South Korea met for three days in Seoul in May for their first such gathering. A total of 41 senior editors and journalists from the three countries took part.

The event, called the 1st Japan-China-South Korea Editors°« Seminar, served as a forum for discussions about the Internet, the role of the media, and coverage of issues including free trade. The main theme was °»Developing New Collaborative Relations in Pursuit Of Deeper Mutual Understanding Among Media Circles.°…

Japanese media were represented by a delegation of 12 people from 12 media organizations, led by Toshihiko Uji, an editorial advisor at the Chunichi Shimbun. China°«s 10-member delegation represented 10 media corporations, and 19 media people attended on behalf of 16 companies from South Korea.

At the welcoming reception on May 26, Byun Yong Shik, chairman of the Korean News Editors°« Association (KNEA) and editor-in-chief of the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean daily newspaper, noted that there had never been a forum for meetings of journalists from the three neighboring countries despite the fact that exchanges of people and merchandise continue to expand among the three countries. He called the seminar a significant first step. He also said that time was ripe for the media in all three countries to transcend narrow mind-sets of race and state consciousness.

Uji, who co-chaired the session on May 27, said that the gathering offered an opportunity to media people from the three countries to discuss the media environment in their respective countries and to deepen mutual understanding.

Jin Dong-guang, chief of Korean-language broadcasting at state-owned China Radio International (CRI), made a keynote presentation. He said that growing competition with U.S. and European media has made it vital for the media in the three countries to strengthen their cooperation. Specifically, Jin called for a system to share information among media in the three countries and to promote joint projects in newsgathering and content production, as well as in other fields.

In the subsequent discussion, participants exchanged views on how the media should interact with the free flow of information and opinions in the Internet, factors that can stir up narrow-minded nationalism and excess emotionalism under the guise of anonymity.

As for a media role in promoting cooperation among the three countries, the Japanese insisted that the media should demand full access to information and freedom in newsgathering. The Chinese delegation said that news reporting should be made on the basis of confirmed facts in order to promote better relations among the three countries.

A Japan-China-South Korea forum was originally proposed by the South Korean delegation at the Japan-South Korea Editors Seminar, in 2006, in Tokyo. The new forum is to be held every two years, with the next meeting set for Tokyo in 2010.

Newspapers Issue Extra Editions after Akihabara Stabbing Shock

Leading newspapers responded with special extra editions when a lone assailant in Tokyo's busy Akihabara district killed seven people and injured 10 in an apparently random killing spree on June 8. Akihabara is known for its electronics shops and as a center of modern culture, including manga comics and animation, attracting many visitors from Japan and abroad.

The Akihabara rampage claimed more lives than any other single incident in Japan except another stabbing spree by a lone assailant at Ikeda Elementary School in Osaka Prefecture on the same date seven years ago that left eight children dead and 15 injured.

The Akihabara attack occurred on a newspaper holiday, but the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun all issued extra editions to cover the slayings. The Yomiuri distributed extras not only on city streets but also to regular subscribers via its sales agencies.

The Yomiuri issued two full-color 4-page extras in the course of the day, comprising a total of 173,350 distributed copies°°all over the country. Its first extra came out at 5 p.m., reporting that five passers-by had been confirmed dead. The back page of that extra was in English. About 36,850 copies of the first extra were distributed at railway terminals and other busy districts in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyushu.

As the number of victims was expected to rise, Yomiuri decided to issue a follow-up extra. Its second extra went out at 7 p.m. as an update, reporting that seven people had been confirmed dead. The back page of the second extra covered another breaking story about Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima setting a world record in the men°«s 200-meter breaststroke. About 122,500 copies of the second extra were distributed via 44 affiliated sales agencies in Tokyo and in three adjacent prefectures by delivery to subscribers, while 14,000 copies were distributed on city streets in Osaka.

The Asahi issued a full-color 2-page extra in Tokyo, distributing about 13,000 copies at key JR railway stations at 5 p.m. The Mainichi distributed 16,000 copies of a full-color 2-page extra at key JR stations in Tokyo also at around 5 p.m., in addition to about 10,000 copies at key railway stations in Fukuoka City and Kita-Kyushu City.

Planned Transmitter Tower to be named Tokyo Sky Tree

Tobu Railway Co. and a group of related companies announced on June 10 that their planned high-rise radio and TV transmitter tower due to be built in Tokyo°«s Sumida Ward will be named the Tokyo Sky Tree.

The tower, which is to be the world°«s tallest (see rendering), is to be used by public broadcaster NHK and five commercial TV broadcasters in the Tokyo metropolitan area for terrestrial digital broadcasting, which is to completely replace the current analog-broadcasting format in 2011.

According to Tobu Railway, a naming committee of 10 third-party experts in March worked its way down to six final candidate names for the new tower from among 18,606 proposals received from the public starting in October 2007.

Those six final candidate names were put to a public ballot via the Internet and other methods, involving a total of 110,419 votes. Tokyo Sky Tree was the most popular name, drawing 32,699 votes.

Tobu Railways says the name °»Tokyo Sky Tree°… reflects a public expectation that the new structure will symbolize a new worldwide participatory culture and the creation of a people- and environment-friendly town under a new tower stretching up into the sky.

Construction will start in July, with a completion date of December 2011. The tower is to be 610 meters tall, or nearly twice the height of the 323-meter Tokyo Tower. It is due to go into operation in the spring of 2012.

This is a rendering of the Tokyo Sky Tree, due to go into digital broadcasting service from Tokyo°«s Sumida Ward in spring 2012.


7 Major Newspaper Firms Post Revenue Declines in 2007

Of the newspaper companies that announced financial results for the 2007 business year that ended in March 2008, seven major firms logged a year-on-year drop in sales.

The seven major newspapers were the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun, the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Sankei Shimbun, the Hokkaido Shimbun, the Chunichi Shimbun and the Nishinippon Shimbun.

Excluding the Mainichi and the Sankei, the firms registered a year-on-year decline both in sales and pretax profit on weak advertising and circulation income. The Mainichi and the Sankei logged a drop in revenue but managed to still come up with a gain in profit.

Of the °»Big 5°… national newspapers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun is the sole company that closes its books in December. The Nikkei reported earlier that both revenue and profit in its business year that ended in December 2007 had plunged from a year earlier.

Outline of the seven firms°« financial results:

The Asahi Shimbun registered a year-on-year drop both in sales and profit for a third straight business year. The downtrend in circulation in major urban areas continued, as advertising revenue plummeted for a third straight year. Revenues in its publishing segment posted their first year-on-year gain in 10 years. Revenue in the operation increased for the first time in two years, but revenues in other digital media operations remained flat. Asahi°«s net profit soared 45.4 percent to \5,662 million on an improvement in the balance of extraordinary gain/loss, which is attributable to the near-completion of its massive equipment renovation to increase color pages to 16 pages out of a 40-page issue.

The Mainichi Shimbun°«s sales declined for a third business year in a row, and a gain in its real estate segment could not offset a drop in advertising and circulation revenues. However, pretax profit increased for the second straight year on a drop in personnel costs resulting from an increase in the number of employee retirements, among other factors. Net profit plunged 37.1 percent to \177 million, due to an extraordinary loss related to the demolition of production equipment at its Atsugi factory, as necessitated by the launch of its new Ebina factory, also in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Yomiuri Shimbun°«s six group firms ended with a year-on-year decline in both sales and profit on a consolidated basis for the second straight year. Circulation revenue dipped only marginally but advertising revenue plummeted, while operating expenses grew 0.2 percent. Net profit decreased 6.7 percent to \16,395 million, despite returned gains from the provision for loss on guarantees and others earmarked in the account for extraordinary gains.

The Sankei Shimbun°«s circulation increased by 11,000 copies, but it posted a year-on-year drop in sales for a fourth consecutive business year. Weak sales of its evening daily Yukan Fuji and other papers for spot sale at kiosks and other outlets and low advertising revenues were the primary factors behind the poor performance. Pretax profit increased on various efforts to cut costs but net profit declined 38.5 percent to \437 million due to expenses for the publicity campaign for the new tabloid-size daily Sankei Express and other extraordinary losses.

The Hokkaido Shimbun posted a sales drop for a third consecutive year as both advertising and circulation revenue plunged on a year-on-year basis. Pretax profit also dipped for a second consecutive year. Net profit plummeted 48.9 percent to \911 million.

The Chunichi Shimbun logged a decline in sales for a second consecutive year on low advertising revenue and a continued leveling off in circulation. Its pro-baseball club the Chunichi Dragon°«s championship in the 2007 tournament did not help much. Advertising revenue decreased for a third year in a row. Net profit plunged about 60 percent to \1,953 million, marking a year-on-year drop for a fourth consecutive year.

The Nishinippon Shimbun boosted revenue in its business-project segment by 11.2 percent, bolstered by various undertakings commemorating its 130th anniversary. However, advertising revenue plunged 5.7 percent. Cost-cutting efforts ended with a meager 0.6 percent drop in operating expenses. As a consequence, the company posted a drop in sales and pretax profit for a second consecutive year. Circulation revenue dipped 0.1 percent but net profit plunged 31.8 percent to \265 million.

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Story of the Month>>>
Top Court Strikes Down NHK Penalty over °∆Comfort Women°… Self-Censorship

The Supreme Court on June 12 reversed a lower court ruling that ordered public broadcaster NHK and two TV production firms to pay compensation to a women°«s rights group for censoring a 2001 television program on Japan°«s wartime sexual slavery.

Rejecting the plaintiff°«s claim, the five-justice first petit bench of the highest court ruled that the trust and expectations of accurate coverage held by people covered by the media are in principle not subject to legal protection.

At issue was a TV program, aired by NHK°«s Education Channel in January 2001, which featured a citizens°« mock tribunal on Japan°«s responsibility for the ordeal of so-called °»comfort women,°… who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military before and during World War II.

The plaintiff was a non-governmental group called Violence Against Women in War ? Network Japan (VAWW-NET Japan), one of the groups that organized the mock trial called the °»Women°«s International War Crimes Tribunal°… in December 2000 that was the subject of the NHK program.

The group argued that NHK had re-edited and altered the content of its program to effectively self-censor the program, after coming under external pressure, by cutting out crucial segments of the mock trial°«s verdict. The defendants ? the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and the two production companies ? insisted that they were not obliged to produce the programs in a manner that met the expectations of people who became the subjects of broadcast productions since the media have the right to freely edit their productions in any way that they choose.

The top court ruling was unanimous by the five justices of the bench, who did not acknowledge any legal protection for a claimed °»right to expect°… accurate coverage of any event. It said that the trust and expectations of people covered by the media are legally protected only when the media put °»enormous burdens°… on them. °»When the media side explains to the subjects of coverage in advance to the effect that they will be treated in a certain manner and method and when the subjects agree as a result to facilitate the media°«s coverage, a right of expectation could be legally protected,°… the ruling said. But it also added that such protection could not always be guaranteed, even if the TV programs were not aired in accordance with prior media explanations.

In this particular case, the ruling determined that there were no °»enormous burdens°… borne by the women°«s group and the media defendants did not give any commitments to the group, at the time of the coverage of the mock trial, about how the event would be treated in the program and how the program would be broadcast. Therefore, the ruling said that the defendants°« conduct did not amount to any infringement of the plaintiff°«s claimed °»right of expectation.°…

Presiding Justice Kazuko Yokoo, in her personal opinion attached to the ruling, warned that even the possibility of asserting illegitimacy on the grounds of infringed °»expectations°… would lead to excessive self-restraint by the media and eventually to a restriction of press freedom,°… adding that it is already difficult for media people to know what kind of expectations the subjects of media coverage might have.

The justice went on further to state that the legal protection of such a right would in fact pave the way to external intervention in the editing of TV programs. °»Under the guarantee of the freedom of expression, broadcasters are allowed to edit their programs at their own discretion and it can happen that they alter the content of their programs.°…

The highest court, however, did not overturn or object to the lower court°«s ruling that acknowledged the plaintiff°«s claim that NHK had indeed altered the content of its program before it was broadcast as a result of critical remarks made by governing politicians and others who disapproved of the mock trial about comfort women itself and of the planned broadcast of content from that event.

In 2004, the Tokyo District Court ordered one of the production companies, which was in charge of collecting materials for the program content, to pay \1 million in compensation, but it dismissed damages claims against NHK and another production company on the grounds that they were free to revise the program in any way that they wished.

In February of last year, however, the Tokyo High Court had also ordered NHK and the two production firms to pay a combined \2 million for infringing upon the plaintiff°«s °»right to expect°… an accurate portrayal of the covered news event.

Nihon Shinbun Kyokai
The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association
Nippon Press Center Bldg., 2-2-1 Uchisaiwai-cho, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo100-8543, Japan

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