Outsider on inside track at Japan's pubcaster

NHK seeks 'fresh person' for reform

For the first time in two decades, NHK said it will go outside the company in search of a chief executive who can lift Japan's national broadcaster out of the doldrums and put it back on firm financial footing.

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

NHK 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 performance 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 reportedly has accepted the decision, and he 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 a revision of the broadcast law.

"I have been fulfilling my duties and responsibilities with a sense of commitment and passion," Hashimoto 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."

The board is scheduled to hold its next meeting Tuesday, though it is not clear whether Hashimoto's successor will be named then.
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