(Tokyo Shimbun: January 20, 2016, Evening edition – p. 2)
The “faces” of major TV news shows are about to enter a transition. Amid increasing political pressure on broadcasting networks, newscasters who have a reputation for speaking their minds are stepping down one after another. Apparently the current atmosphere is conducive to broadcasting companies exercising self-restraint in their news reporting out of consideration for the government. Some experts are saying that journalism as we know it is at risk.
Ichiro Furutachi, the anchor of TV Asahi news program “Hodo Station,” and Shigetada Kishii, the anchor of the TBS’s “News 23,” have announced that they will step down at the end of March. NHK is also considering replacing its “Close-up Gendai” anchorwoman Hiroko Kuniya.
The government has often criticized comments made by Furutachi on his news program. However, Furutachi has never strayed from his belief that “newscasters play a role in speaking out against authority” even when he announced his decision to step down from his position. Since Kuniya often asked pointed questions of influential politicians, speculation was rife that she would be forced to step down.
As for Kishii, he referred to the government-sponsored security legislation during his news program by saying, “In order to kill the legislation, we should continue opposing the bills.”
Rikkyo University Associate Professor Hiroyoshi Sunakawa said: “Although the TV stations must have their own reasons for replacing their newscasters, viewers will likely get the impression that the anchors have been forced to leave the shows.” He went on to say: “If news programs could only provide neutral and one-sided information, it would be bad for the viewers and democratic society.” (Abridged)