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Japan Nuclear Company's Massive PR Assault

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Download Japanese politicians and journalists have described how the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant used its massive advertising budget to strangle any opposition to the company and to nuclear power in general.

TEPCO splashed 350-million dollars a year on advertising... took journalists on junkets and managed to massage the media into accepting its message.

What made it extraordinary was that TEPCO spent so much on promotion when it had no competitors in Japan.

Mark Willacy of Radio Australia reports.


It's the latest TEPCO ad but not one the nuclear power company ever wanted to broadcast.

In it TEPCO says sorry for the worry and trouble it has caused people because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster - or "accident", as it prefers to call it.

Last year, before the meltdowns at Fukushima the company spent $350 million on advertising  and promotion, much of it to massage its message that nuclear power is safe

“For newspaper companies and TV companies TEPCO is one of the biggest clients. They don't want to make their biggest clients unhappy.”

Kenji Nakanishi is a member of the Japanese Diet, or parliament. He's a leading member of the opposition Your Party.

During parliamentary investigations he questioned TEPCO's former president about the company's vast ad budget.

Mr Nakanishi says it is clear TEPCO used hundreds of millions to silence any possible media criticism of the company and nuclear power.

“If they say something bad about nuclear plants they want make them shut up.”

But like other Japanese firms, TEPCO employed other more subtle ways of persuading journalists to see things its way.

Hiroe Kambayashi is a freelance journalist who's been investigating the company's manipulation of the mainstream media.

“They'll take journalists for tours of their nuclear power plants then the reporters will come back to Tokyo and be entertained at clubs and bars. The journalists and TEPCO will become very close and the reporters will hesitate to write critical reports about the company or nuclear power.”

We approached TEPCO about its advertising budget and its media management strategy.

We were given this statement:

“The association with media people is within the boundaries considered appropriate and within what is generally accepted in society. By no means do we think it's excessive.”

But one question TEPCO failed to answer is why before the disaster it spent $350 million in one year on advertising and promotion when it has no competition.

Opposition member of the Japanese Diet, Kenji Nakanishi.

“TEPCO has monopoly business in Tokyo and Kanto area. They don't have any competition. Do they need to make advertisement? I don't think so. I don't think so.”

One thing is now clear - TEPCO's advertising budget will face the same deep cuts as other aspects of its multi-billion dollar operation.

But this disaster should also shake up some sections of the Japanese media which for years accepted TEPCO's advertising cash in exchange for compromising their journalistic integrity.

Last Updated ( Monday, 10 October 2011 10:00 )  

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