Media Mix, Jan. 12, 2020

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the Japan Post Holdings scandal, which is mainly about the way NHK was prevented from covering the matter fully. Two pertinent points that aren’t made fully clear in the column is that Yasuo Suzuki, the “don” of Japan Post Holdings who personally put pressure on NHK to curb its reporting, was also forced to quit, and that then-NHK President Ryoichi Ueda eventually testified to the Diet that NHK did not postpone a follow-up report on Japan Post Insurance’s improper sales methods due to this pressure, an assertion that no one ever really believed. In terms of media relevancy, the main point of the column is probably that the NHK board of governors may have broken the law by relaying the pressure it received from Suzuki to Ueda directly, a violation of the Broadcast Law, which guarantees newsgatherers freedom from interference.

The fact is, the Japan Post Insurance scandal contains a lot of central as well as peripheral illegality. The follow-up NHK report, which was finally broadcast last summer, a full year after it was originally scheduled to air, clearly indicates illegal actions on the part of salespeople who were under pressure to meet impossible sales quotas. One victim talks about how a salesperson visited the home of her elderly mother, who had a Japan Post insurance policy, in order to talk about inheritance taxes and asked both the mother and daughter to affix their signatures to a piece of paper to confirm that they had understood the salesperson’s explanation. Later, they discovered that the signatures had been transferred optically to a contract for an additional policy they knew nothing about. That is obviously sales fraud. The NHK report stated unequivocally that these kinds of practices were not only rampant, targeting tens of thousands of policy holders, but that they were known by executives of the company. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have tried to cover them up after the first report was aired. Executives have resigned and a certain amount of self-reflection has resulted from the fallout of the scandal, but no one has been prosecuted much less punished by the authorities. And why? Because Japan Post Holdings is still mainly owned by the government and, despite recent news reports to the contrary, still provides a cushy landing spot for bureaucrats parachuting out of their jobs in Kasumigaseki?

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