An old and worn out media policy

  Five years ago I presented a private policy proposal titled “Ten goals for media policy.” Even as we were being rocked by overseas pressure from the likes of Google and Apple, the administration’s media policy was backward-looking, whether on media convergence, encouragement of competition, or opening the airwaves. I was impatient. The 10 goals are listed below. (References to current circumstance indicate 2009, the year at the time they were written).

1. Make all TV programs accessible, whether on television, PC, or cellphones. (Aim to raise the current 13% of secondary terrestrial broadcasts to 50% by 2015.)
2. Make all of Japan’s content accessible around the world.
(Raise the current proportion of the overseas market in the total content revenue, 2.5%, to 10% by 2015)
3. Free ourselves from reliance on paper, CD, and DVD media.
(Raise the 39% transmission rate by internet and broadcasting to 75% by 2015.)
4. Make emergency information accessible anywhere.
(Expand the current 65 billion yen market in digital signage to one trillion by 2015.)
5. Make it possible to conduct all shopping transactions using a cellphone.
(Raise the current 1.5% e-commerce usage rate among retail and service sectors to 5% by 2015.)
6. Manage the activities of colleges, hospitals, and city offices online.
(Raise the current 30~50% ICT usage rate among education, welfare/medical, and governmental services to 60% by 2015.)
7. Produce a television drama performed by household robots.
8. Recruit those interested in becoming top-rate pop culture creators to study in Japan.
(Arrange for 45,000 of Japan’s 300,000 foreign students to study at colleges or graduate schools with a focus on content.)
9. Provide everyone in Japan with the means of creating anime and music.
(30% of the nation’s elementary school children able to create animation and music by 2015.)
10. The result: greatly expanding the content industry.

 The content of the goals placed special significance on the media convergence and developing domestic industry. After that, and after several repeated arguments with the administration, the result was that the government agreed to some of the points. 1. 50% rate of secondary broadcasts. 2. 10% overseas consumption of Japanese content. 4. One trillion dollar market in digital signage, and 8. 45,000 exchange students studying content, which were added to the government’s official document.
 However, in the last 5 years, the media situation has changed completely. This plan has been rendered completely obsolete. A new strategy has yet to be drawn up. What we need in the current fluid situation is not vision, but decisiveness. The ability to work with what’s in front of you, make decisions, get results, and tidy up afterwards. For the time being, I intend to proceed in this manner.


A former Paris spy and a Diet member.

  At the counter of an Akasaka pub, I ran into a particular Diet member for the first time in 18 years. At that time, 18 years ago, I was a spy in Paris. Dispatched by the government to a certain  foundation, I was wining and dining French government employees and members of the media, gathering information.
There was a team of Americans I often ran into during the occasional receptions. They were engaged in the same kind of activities as I. One day, those Americans were forcibly deported for the crime of espionage. That was when I realized that I was a spy, myself.
 I shared my concern with an individual at the French ministry of internal affairs. I was engaged in the same activities, was that really OK? "We don't really care what Japan does," was the reply. It was in its way, humiliating.
 At that time, the American Clinton administration, which was pushing closer to opening up the movie industry, and the French Mitterrand administration, which insisted that movies were a part of the national culture, were clashing with each other.
 Even when it came to internet policy, America, which was aiming for hegemony through globalization, and France, which was preaching diversity of language and culture, found themselves in opposition. The enforcement of the espionage laws may have been a way of teaching a lesson. Of course they wouldn't have cared what Japan did.

 My work in France didn't only involve the French. Offering hospitality to guests from Japan was another part of my duty. One day, I was tasked with showing around a group of legislators from the House of Representatives. On that occasion, the Dietman from the pub was one of the guests who stayed out drinking until morning on the Champs-Élysée.  
 The conversational topic during that night of drinking was the pros and cons of a single-seat electoral system. I remember him shouting in a loud voice. Soon, the sun had risen. “It’s 6:00. We have a meeting with France Telecom at 8:30,”
 When I, worried about the time, told him this, his reply was “Then we can sleep for at least two hours.” I thought to myself that I didn’t want to work with these people.  “We’re always putting our lives on the line, here” they were all fond of saying.
 Now then, that Diet member had just had a run of bad luck. Sitting alone at that counter, staring off into the distance, wordlessly swilling a large bottle of sake. Another one of the group that had come to Paris would commit suicide shortly after. I have a great deal of respect for those who run for office.

 Sir, please take care of yourself, and keep fighting the good fight. I never did say hello to you that night.


The taboo-defying digital textbook

 Digital textbook. I created a consortium four years ago, but things don’t catch on that easily. In the first place, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a digital textbook. According to law, textbooks are only recognized as such if they are written on paper.
 It has become necessary to tackle the three big themes surrounding the legal position of textbooks, matters concerning the exam system, and the ways in which copyright law is used. However, the government has been discouraging people from this as well, citing the lack of concrete evidence as their reasoning. It has always remained a taboo.
 Because of this, I issued a proposal for “Reforming the system to make digital textbooks a reality.” I was thereafter surprised to find that positive responses, “Let’s do it,” “Why don’t we build the legal foundation,” came back from all ends of the political spectrum. As a result, the government’s response also changed. In 2012, during an assembly of the committee on intellectual property, attended by all cabinet ministers below the level of Prime Minister, an official resolution—to “investigate” the three themes of the legal position of textbooks, matters concerning the exam system, and the ways in which copyright law is used—was passed.
 The taboo was broken. With this, gates were open. In addition, the government’s resolution stated in no uncertain terms that this investigation was to be carried out concurrent to the already ongoing search for concrete evidence. Even so it still seems that this will amount to nothing more than an “investigation.” We must continue until “realization” is reached.
 But why didn’t this taboo breaking debate happen while the research was ongoing 30 years ago? Now I understood completely. It was that none off the parties who participated in this issue, not the government, not the Diet, not academia, had had the will or desire to get anything done.
 Here, I want to solicit the help of those who do have the will, and move forward to the next stage. To that end, I took the opportunity to officially announce “Statement of Informational-izing Education,” and gather its supporters. Many well known people who represent Japan have responded with their support.
 Even more important, close to 50 heads of local government from all across the country lent their voices in support just after the announcement of the statement. Although it is said that the government has begun to take action, it is not as if they will set aside budget or even consider putting their full faith in the project. The movement needs to surge upwards from the local level.
 If knocking on the government’s door is the first stage in the plan for the digitalization of education, then we have entered the second phase, pouring new wind into the sails, together with motivated local government leaders.


Colleges are worried about the Digital Age

  Heidelberg Castle rises sharply above the valley, looked upon from below by the Neckar river. Heidelberg University, located along its banks, was established in 1386 and is Germany’s oldest University. The old sanctuary, with its tightly packed rows of chairs, is a dim and austere space, though good for one’s posture.
There were certainly a few rowdy fellows who broke the rules. The school prison from years past still remains. In accordance with respecting the self-governance and autonomy of the school, which existed outside of local jurisdiction, students who broke the rules were locked up here. Those students covered every inch of the walls with graffiti. Their pride and spirit of defiance has been carved onto the pages of history.
 Though, not ceding punishment to society outside of the halls of the school, keeping the process between those closest to you, making them break bread together and settle the dispute by paying compensation, is a very warmhearted sort of punishment indeed. Doing this, even though it would have been far more economical to toss the offending parties out into the river as punishment. Perhaps we can say that this is the cost of autonomy for a university.

 Looking at another university, I come to realize the distance that exists between college and myself.
 When I was in elementary school, the nearby Kyoto University was always in an uproar. Groups of young men with helmets and clubs clashed with riot police and people covered in flame from Molotov cocktails were a common sight. Drunken spectators would gather, shouting encouragement at the students.
 Ten years passed before I made my own way past the school gates. They say the student movement had died, but really, the boys in helmets and masks had just taken to loitering. I spent my time in an autonomous territory, the punk-rock palace known as Kyoto University’s Western Auditorium, so the mood wasn’t quite the same as it was typically. This, even though nowadays I must humbly apologize for the transgression of standing on this side of the teacher’s podium.
 I have no intention of “teaching” students. My role is not to transmit knowledge. Nor is that within my ability. Above all else, graduate school is not a place where students are taught by teachers, but a place where students come to study, and the advent of digitalization has expanded the possibilities for self-study to an extraordinary extent. What I can do for them is offer hints as to what they ought to study, and an environment in which they can do so. I try to provide those opportunities as I move between industry-university projects.
 The common knowledge about how secondary education is something that has come down over decades and even centuries, gradually accumulating until it arrived at its present form. In contrast to this, the number of famous universities offering classes online for free is growing, and the relationships between knowledge and society are changing rapidly. The universities are worried. I may start worrying, myself.