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Japan: Nuking the news

As the government prepares to restart its nuclear plants, will the country's media reboot its coverage of the story?

Last updated: 30 Aug 2014 15:32
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For some countries, there are some topics that the media find too sensitive to cover. In Japan, that story is the nuclear issue.

Most people at the top of Japanese media organisations know that if you offend Tokyo Electric Power Company, not only do you risk losing advertising dollars from them, but if TEPCO complains to their friends in Toyota or Asahi Biru you could lose even more advertising dollars.

Jake Adelstein, author, Tokyo Vice

It is the only country ever to have had the atomic bomb dropped on it - in Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War II – and the country's media appear to be still scarred by the events.

That became more evident after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster three years ago. Critics said the media did not cover the story well enough, and rather toed the government line.

There have also been concerns about how much influence the nuclear industry has over the media through the large amounts it spends on advertising.

Kristin Surak,a professor at SOAS University, says: "Advertising budgets are one of the most important ways that industries exert pressure on the media in Japan and the electricity companies are very much involved in this.

"Their industry advertising budget is about $672m each year. And Tepco spends about $192m each year on advertising alone. Media outlets are very concerned about this crucial source of funding."

But this is a crucial time for Japan - the country's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for the country to restart its nuclear energy programme and the media have an important role to play to ensure the checks and balances on this story do not go amiss.

The Listening Post's Gouri Sharma reports on the challenges of covering the nuclear story in Japan.

Listening Post  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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