Saturday, July 14, 2007

Media Watch 070714: Let's See What's Cooking on the BBC Front

1. Support for Japan PM "at New Low"

I don't see any reason to have quotation marks around "at New Low"; is that a Britishism? Other that that, nothing to find fault with in the article, I suppose. Two points:

1) The LDP is doing even worse than the Abe Cabinet, which may put some doubts into the minds of his intra-party rivals who might challenge him in the event of a likely post-election scramble to scrape together a working majority. In fact, I have been doing some thinking, and we could be seeing the Abe administration lasting at least into the early months of 2008, even if he fails to achieve it. I'll try to put my thoughts together later.

2) The latest Yomiuri poll (July 10-12) shows a jump in DPJ support since the last one (July 3-5). The percentage of people choosing DPJ candidates in the district (as opposed to proportionate) seats improved from 23% to 27% while LDP supporters fell from 24% to 22%. This latest shift is particularly evident in the townships and villages, which are traditional LDP strongholds, where the DPJ leapt from 15.4% to 29.8%. The last, small-town figures are particularly astonishing. I have been among those who feel that Ichiro Ozawa spending most of his time out of the media spotlight has been bad campaign tactics. But if the DPJ win big, he will be able to make a plausible claim that his strategy of roaming the countryside to wake up voters has been a great success.

2. Toilet Cash Mystery Grips Japan

It appears that someone has traveling around Japan, leaving money in men's toilets in government office buildings, together with nice letters of encouragement. As a former bureaucrat, I'm happy for this show of gratitude from this anonymous benefactor. The story also has cultural resonance; much, if not most, of Japan's greatest classic literature from Kojiki(the national creation epic, officially compiled, but retains its primeval power) to The Tosa Diaries (the first in a long line of great kana (as opposed to Chinese-language) diary literature) to The Tales of Genji (no explanation) to Oku no Hosomichi (the most famous of Matsuo Basho's haiku travelogues) to Tokaidouchu Hizakurige (the great Edo Era comic travelogue and spiritual ancestor of all those Hope-Crosby road movies) is mainly or significantly travel writing. The moralistic dimension of the money giver's act also evokes the travels, real and imagined, of Koubou Daishi, Gyouki Shounin, and other great religious figures. Surely this cultural resonance must have had a substantial role in steering our collective unconsciousness towards this story. Not that the story continued beyond the three to four day flurry of new revelations, as the local news bureaus, following HQ orders, made inquiries at all the town halls and the like. But grip the nation? That's O.J. Simpson, Lacey Peterson, Terry Schiavo. BBC is displaying mutton and selling dog meat.

3. Japanese Interest Rates on Hold

Not much to say here. Just this useless quote:

"But many analysts believe policymakers will act at their next meeting in August, after July's parliamentary elections are out of the way.

This does not mean an August hike is off the cards," said Sharada Selvanathan, currency strategist at BNP Paribas."

Really? In any case, if they do not raise the overnight lending rate, Mr. (Ms?) Selvanathan can always claim, "I didn't say they'd do it either." So what's the point?

4. Japan's Old-Fashioned Campaigning

This article tells the story of the incredibly detailed and restrictive electoral campaigning regulations and does it mainly through the freeze on Internet action during the official campaigning period. It does miss out, however, on the leakage through the political party home page. It seems the authorities are frowning on any alterations during the campaign period, but are in practice letting it slide. Both the LDP and DPJ are on the move, and Komeito and the Communist Party are following suit. The smaller parties likely will follow to the best of their abilities.

And off-topic, but since we are talking about the Internet:

5. China Firm Sues Google over Name

"[Beijing Guge Science and Technology Ltd. Co.] is suing Google Inc.'s China subsidiary for copying its name, saying the U.S. search engine's registered Chinese name is too similar to its own and has harmed its operations."

Apparently, the misdirected calls are wreaking havoc on its telephone service, and it just wants Google to stop using its name. But this is China, and a clue lies in something BBC left out when it lifted the news item from the Reuters wire service. To quote via The Boston Globe:

Tian[ Yunshan, a Beijing Guge official,] declined to comment on [its] operations or its products or services, saying it was "not convenient" to disclose such details.

Oh, inconvenient fact. This not being the US, Mr. Tian did not have to add the otherwise mandatory "It's not about the money" statement either. And the entire Beijing bureau was on its summer holidays, so it couldn't go and check Beijing Guge out. It's not as if BBC lacked space; it did add the following, totally out-of-context paragraph at the end:

"[Google] and other major IT firms such as Microsoft and Yahoo have been criticized for censoring themselves in order to enter the Chinese market."

And rightly so. But what's the point here? Then you realize that the BBC desk is savoring the irony. Fine. But to deliberately ignore what should be the main thrust of this story, which is the possibility that Beijing Guge is part of a much larger phenomenon in China, on the Internet, and indeed on any other economic frontier that have yet to cope adequately with property rights protection, and deliver an underhanded sermon against Google's choice of money over principle in the guise of straight reporting is not what BBC should be doing. Leave that to the editorials and op-eds.

Lot's of petty peeves? Maybe. But you do agree that the picture is not too encouraging, don't you?

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