Choice of NHK boss criticized

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TOKYO -- Shigeo Fukuchi's appointment as the new president of Japanese public broadcaster NHK has not been greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Fukuchi, 73, officially took over the troubled corporation Friday, after the resignation of Genichi Hashimoto the previous day. Hashimoto stepped down after admitting that he had failed to instill sufficient awareness of appropriate behavior among staff.

Earlier in the week, it was revealed that three news division staffers had used information gathered during their work to carry out insider trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Immediately after accepting the position, Fukuchi said his "most important mission is to regain the public's trust" and that he aimed to reorganize "NHK's organizational culture to ensure strict compliance" with the law.

His comments were criticized in editorials Monday, however, with the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper questioning the decision of NHK's management committee to appoint a former advisor to a brewery company to the company's top position.

The Asahi newspaper echoed those fears, stating: "We have stressed that NHK's president must have a noble journalistic spirit. We also took note that since Fukuchi has no previous experience in either journalism or broadcasting, he is clearly the wrong person to head the news organization."

The paper was unimpressed with his failure to state his position on plans to reduce the number of NHK's television channels from the eight that exist at present.

"Does he really understand that NHK is in crisis? Important questions need to be answered," the Asahi said. "Fukuchi needs to understand that he now heads a news organization. As such, he must now cobble together a tangible reform plan. Viewers will not wait indefinitely for that to happen."

Other areas of concern include NHK's independence from the government and the rebuilding of its finances, though the income forecast for 2008 stands at 657.5 billion yen (U$6.16 billion), up 3.6% from the previous fiscal year as a result of legal moves to require television owners to pay their annual license fee.
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