A cross-cultural comparative study of Japanese and Western perceptions on media systems assessing the validity, or otherwise, of Western criticisms against the Japanese press club media system, and the potential repercussions of new media in Japan, using the Fukushima nuclear disaster as a case in point.
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts [to the] School of Social Sciences and Communications, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
Western academia is often critical of the Japanese media. The criticisms frequently centre on traits such as extreme exclusivity and a culture of relatively less independent investigative journalism, which are argued to dilute Western ideals of a democratic free press. These traits, however, appear to reflect socio-cultural factors such as collectivist notions of conformity, social harmony, and social deference. This pilot study tests the validity of critics through a comparative analysis of Japanese and Western public opinion, focusing on the Japanese and Western press coverage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. Perceptions of new media are also examined to investigate how differences in Japanese and Western dispositions are reflected in the development of new media in Japan and any evidence of potential impacts on the Japanese press club system. The study found high levels of Japanese satisfaction and support for their domestic media system. Compared to Western respondents, Japanese respondents expressed greater support for collectivist thought and less skepticism about powerful social institutions, and low levels of support for civil disobedience. The study also found high levels of support for specific media characteristics which reflect collectivist thought. These include a preference on the part of Japanese media consumers for moderate reporting, the regulation and control of information, and relatively less investigative or ‘watchdog’ journalism. These findings complicate Western criticisms of the Japanese press club media system, since they suggest that the media in Japan — much like their Western counterparts — reflect prevailing cultural customs. The study also reveals higher levels of usage, and more favorable opinions of new media among Western respondents compared to Japanese respondents. This suggests that Japanese society is more resistant to new media. This may be because new media is associated with traits of individualism, evidenced through personalized commentary and opinion, and values of nonconformity through anti-establishment critique.
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