How Expert Panels Functioned in the Amendments of Broadcasting Act:

The Transition of Their Impacts on the Institutional Reform

Published: January 2018

The Broadcasting Act of Japan has been revised in various ways since its enactment in 1950. In revising the Act, expert panels (councils and private advisory panels) organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and its predecessor the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications played significant roles. Different panels served different functions in the policy-making process; some revisions were made, complying with the recommendations of the panels, but others were not. This paper examined the roles played by the expert panels, focusing on the major amendments of the Broadcasting Act, in order to review the policymaking process in the field of broadcasting, in which securing press freedom is indispensable to the institutional reform.

In examining the above, the history of the Broadcasting Act amendments was divided into three periods, according to the characteristics of expert panels and revision items, to analyze the relations between expert panels and amendments: the first period (the 1950s through the early 1980s), the second period (the late 1980s through the 1990s, and the third period (from the year 2000 onward). Reference materials includes recommendations and minutes of the panels as well as past news reports and memoires written by persons involved.

The following features were revealed by the analyses. In the first stage, the roles expected of the expert panels set up by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications were not clear, and panels had limited influence—for example, there were cases that program regulations that had not been among the experts’recommendations were included in the revisions in the subsequent political process. In the second period, however, revisions became more in line with experts’ recommendations as the panels’ revision discussion became more focused on the issues that needed specialized or technical knowledge. Even when a focal point of the amendment was program regulations, which would arouse political interest easily, the tightening of regulations was avoided because of the panel’s cautious stance. In the third period, the expert panels gained higher legitimacy through their information disclosure and other efforts, and the panels’function of reconciliation of interests in the broadcasting circle took hold, due to which the revision of the system conforming to panels’ recommendations became customary. On the other hand, it is also revealed that the influence of the policy community related to the broadcasting business has been increasing from the facts that the recommendations made by expert panels organized outside of the MIC are not directly linked to the institutional reform process and that it is unlikely to see a change of government and consequential institutional changes.

As the functions of expert panels became more established in the broadcasting circle, system amendment progressively became more in line with panels’ recommendations, which, to some extent, has made the policymaking respect the securing of press freedom, such as avoiding stricter program regulations. However, the democratic legitimacy of expert panels is yet to suffice, and there is a problem that the system reform is limited to the items approved by the policy community. Policymaking will continue to use expert panels, but how to reflect opinions outside of the community in the broadcasting policy is yet to be solved.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research


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