Outsider eyed as new leader of NHK

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TOKYO -- For the first time in two decades, Japanese national broadcaster NHK will look outside its own ranks for an executive who able to lift the corporation out of the doldrums and put it back on a firm financial footing.

NHK confirmed Tuesday that the board of governors will choose someone from the world of business because of the need for "drastic and fundamental reform."

President Genichi Hashimoto's three-year term will expire Jan. 24, and the board is discussing his replacement. The decision not to reinstate Hashimoto for another term is seen as a criticism of his achievements since taking over.

"We have decided to appoint a fresh person who can deal with new challenges," said Shigetaka Komori, head of the board and president of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.

Komori said the panel appreciates Hashimoto's efforts to increase the collection of subscription fees from viewers, which fell dramatically in the wake of a series of scandals at the broadcaster, including embezzlement and the padding of expenses.

But he added that it "is difficult to entrust" Hashimoto and the present management team with NHK's future, pointing to the failure of a five-year restructuring plan to implement changes and address deep-rooted problems.

Hashimoto has reportedly accepted the decision, and in a statement earlier in the month outlined the challenges for the next head of the corporation.

"There still is an urgent need to press forward with the various reform activities of NHK, which are still only halfway through," he said. "These include preparations for the full digitalization of TV services and the setting up of suitable administrative frameworks in the event of revision of the broadcast law.

"I have been fulfilling my duties and responsibilities with a sense of commitment and passion," he said. "In my opinion, any competent president of NHK should command a good understanding of the mission and the role of a public broadcaster and news organization, be fully trusted both internally and externally, and be able to perform his assignments with devotion.

"Regarding the appointment of the president, I will leave everything to the decision of the board of governors."

The board is scheduled to hold its next meeting Tuesday, though it is not clear whether Hashimoto's successor will be named at that point. No names have yet been linked with the post.
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