The latest national drama

Mark Nornes amnornes at
Fri Mar 25 19:47:59 EST 2005

The latest drama that everyone seems to be talking about here is not 
the climax of the morning soap Wakaba, but Livedoor's hostile take-over 
bid for Nippon Broadcasting. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why 
this thing is on the front pages day in and day out—morning and evening 

It all started a few weeks ago, when the internet startup Livedoor made 
a sneaky move on Nippon Broadcasting with an off-hours trade that put 
it within spitting distance of company control. It soon became apparent 
that the target was actually Fuji TV network, which is majority owned 
by NBS. There has been daily maneuvering by each side that the media 
follows religiously (I wonder about readers/viewers). NBS tried to 
dilute the Fuji stock by selling some of itself to Fuji, which would 
have fatally weakened Livedoor's share. The courts blocked that, and 
now NBS has loaned a big chunk of stock to Softbank, big investor in 
broadband and YahooJapan and Livedoor's significant competitor.

So what's the big deal?

At one level, it's the way the hostility of the takeover became 
personalized in the respective CEOs. The NBS Man is a typical ojisan 
executive, with the usual sharp suits, nondescript hair, and ugly eye 
glasses. Livedoor's Horie is a college drop-out and 32 year-old, 
straight-talking, wunderkind—read "child." The two have been throwing 
barbs at each other, and the battle is portrayed as Old vs. New Japan.

At another level, it seems to be about journalism. Horie, the college 
dropout, thinks that in the age of the internet journalism is passé, as 
all you have to do is put the information coming from various sources 
online and grant the people the freedom to form their own opinion about 
it. The press reminds him that journalism has a higher goal—part of 
which is weeding out distortion, propaganda, significance, etc.—a 
higher goal deeply connected to a responsibility to the citizenry of 
Japan. The irony of this argument has been pretty enjoyable; Horie's 
ridiculous anti-intellectualism is not so far off the mark when you 
think about how prone the press is here—everyone knows you get the real 
news from shukanshi.

Finally, it seems to be about the future of television. This is the 
intriguing part of it all. It's the aspect I am most interested in, but 
which is also the worst reported so far. It seems obvious that Livedoor 
is interested in acquiring a television network because they see where 
the internet is going. Now you can watch full-screen, full motion 
quicktime movies that look pretty damn good (check out the trailers on 
the Apple site); it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what's 
going on in Horie's head. But on the shorter term, there has also been 
some talk about changing programming itself. Not simply sloughing off 
the news, but revamping the entertainment end as well.

Has anyone been following this? Does anyone have a handle on the 
significance of the take-over, especially the third aspect on my list?



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