A Comparative Study Media Systems in India and Japan

Media in every country is entwined with politics, international relations, culture, and history. Its functioning is primarily determined by the type of government, with different degrees of control or none at all. It acts as the bridge between the government and its citizens and plays a constructive and crucial role in shaping public opinion and forming political agendas. Mass media does not function in isolation; it is either state-owned or privately owned. The significance of media can vary with each government; in a democracy, it typically acts as the “watchdog of the government” or the “fourth pillar of democracy.” What determines the narrative of different media systems has been a long-held debate. Factors which include in governing mass media comprises politics, history, culture, and religion.

India and Japan have varied approaches in terms of media regulations and the selection of the countries offer different dimensions for comparisons. There are democracies (India and Japan); developed countries (Japan) and developing countries (India and Japan); patriarchal and conservative societies (India and Japan). Indian media has both publicly owned and private-owned media houses. Due to the high commercialization of the Indian media, it has become a machinery of political propaganda and an instrument for industrialists for their interests. As a result of these ties, objective reporting of news becomes an issue as media houses would have biases and inclinations towards different parties. “Indian media is divided politically as well as ideologically. Some newspapers favor secular ideology while some support right-wing politics, a divide similar to nationalists and loyalists press before partition and this divide is further subdivided on different issues” (Kumar, 2011). While media systems in Japan are in line with the political framework within which they operate. Japan has had a single-party rule for most of its post-war period, where opposition parties have remained out of power for a considerable period. Therefore, media is very cautious when it comes to writing about the ruling political party. During the 1940s and 1950s a popular political satire; was suspended in 1954 soon after the end of the American occupation. This was the first instance when the freedom of expression was suppressed by the Japanese government.

Both India and Japan are democracies, which guarantee freedom of expression in their constitution, however this freedom can be seen as restrained with biased and prejudiced reporting by the media. What can be seen in both the media is that though issues are discussed, there is no addressal of solutions or reforms. In turn media becomes a catalyst for reinforcing the stereotypes. In Japan, due to the culture of apology, the accused in any controversy will proceed with resigning from their positions as seen in the case of Yoshiro Mori; former Prime Minister of Japan made headlines in February 2021 for making sexist comments to a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting that women board members talked too much which eventually led to the resignation of Yoshiro Mori. This again does not initiate any change in policies, change by politicians or lead to a slowdown or lessening of such incidents happening in the future. While in case of India, it is a step back from Japan in terms of issuing apology, but both the countries don’t provide any redressal of the problems. Despite both the countries’ constitution being shaped by western ideals and features, and the influence of western media has only been increasing in the respective countries, the society in India and Japan is patriarchal and conservative in nature; therefore, it cannot be assumed that media in any democracy would guarantee freedom of expression. Media has an influencing role in changing perceptions but not enough for creating changes. If Indians and Japanese are asked to name the most influential group in their society, all may choose the media but when it comes to who is most influential in policymaking, the media is seen as less influential than bureaucrats, politicians, or big business. Therefore, because of strict legal rules on their use, they have played a very limited role in making policy changes in India and Japan than in the United States and some other democracies.