Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What the news on Burma tells us about the Japanese media.

How many times has the word "Myanmar" made it to the headlines of newspapers in Japan?

Not sure... but I'm pretty sure it's one digit.
And, I don't think it has happened for over a decade.

So it was amazing and fascinating to see news about the recent movements in Burma (Myanmar) on the very front pages of newspapers on September 28th, and some also on the 29th. All news programs covered the news on those days, and even the LCDs on the Yamanote Line trains were broadcasting it. But, this all came at the expense of a life of a Japanese humanitarian journalist, named Kenji Nagai, who had become a victim of one of the clashes in Burma a few days earlier.

Without his death, how many people would have even known the name of the country?

Dozens of crises still exist around the globe, and the Japanese media has so far done little to tell those stories. There are still many crises that have yet to be reported. If you look at the international sections of the newspapers, it's pretty obvious that they focus so much on North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Of course, that's natural, but we have to always keep in mind that the world is much larger than that.

Japanese news is so domestically-directed, so to speak. A lot of the news is very local. Most of them cover things that occur inside Japan. There are couple of reasons I can think of, but the biggest reason is probably because Japan is not a multi-racial nation. It's also an island, geographically isolated from the Asian continent, and has a history of having closed its doors to the rest of the world in the Edo era with just a few exceptions... this might also represent the character of this race. Not sure how much this is related to the topic, but anyway, the majority of the people do not feel the need to know what's going on in places like Darfur or Burma, at least not until it involves a life of a person who is Japanese.

To add further to that, most of the programs on TV are those viewers want to see. The latest "trends" of the people have so much influence on TV programs here. Of course, the private TV stations always have to keep the sponsors happy, so it is often difficult, but how about NHK, the biggest public broadcaster and by far also the largest Japanese broadcaster overall? Why do they have to care about viewing rates? There is no need to worry about pressure from sponsors, so in my opinion, they should concentrate on telling people what we really need to know, from an ethical and moral point of view. I feel they are the only organization that has the capability to truly pursue that job, both financially and technologically, and I believe that is their niche, and their social responsibility. :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Easy, man. The media in every country is always too domestically-focused, because most of the time the consumers are local. Most of my Thai friends don't know where Darfur is or what's going on over there either, but they'll be interested when I tell them about what I've read in Time or Newsweek. The same thing can be said about American media, right? If ya don't believe me, try to search for "Stupid Americans" on YouTube. The Stupid Americans I-III videos should still be there.