Ustream and Twitter changing politics in Japan

For the long history of the Japanese media- when Japanese prime minister, ministers, local governments, police etc make press announcements, the rule was that the "press club" would take care of those press meetings. Press club consists of major newspaper publishing companies and mass media. Freelance journalists, web media, magazines, foreign media, citizen journalists etc were all excluded from those press clubs. This means that the press club and the politicians can control what would be spoken, what would be asked at the press conferences, which means that the citizen's right to know was not protected in this country- at least to a certain extent.

I wrote a lot [ja] about this old press club system and how it is changing recently on my Japanese blog. After the political change last year, the ruling party -DPJ had been pressured to keep their campaign promise to open up the press conferences.

Katsuya Okada- Minister of Foreign Affairs decided to open his press conference to a wider range of journalists, Shizuka Kamei - Minister of State for Financial Services decided to hold 2 press conferences (1 for the press club, another for other journalists including magazines, freelance, internet media etc). On 3/26, FINALLY the press conference of Prime Minister Hatoyama was opened to freelance and foreign journalists [ja] and was ustreamed.

On 3/9, Kazuhiro Haraguchi - Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications who is an active Twitter user, decided to hold his press conferences using Ustream. His announcement to hold this Ustream press conference was released only on Twitter. 1,200 people watched this 30 min long Ustream press conference which he spoke about the privatization of postal services that happened in the former Koizumi administration. After he finished his speech, he returned in front of the camera to answer directly to the comments by the viewers. The funny thing was that the PR division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications did NOT know about this event- replying to the interview by ITMedia[ja] that they are "perplexed" and that they "do not have any information about this Ustream conference".

(screenshot from Haraguchi's 4/16 Ustream)

On 3/5, LDP politician Taro Kono did a NicoNicoNamaHousou (a Japanese Ustream-ish live video broadcasting service) of his project to review the projects by the ruling party DPJ. He not only streamed the whole process but also came back in front of the camera during the break time to give a short and concise lecture on what the theme is, what the issues are, what the conclusions are, to enhance the understanding of the viewers. Kono is an active Twitter user as well.

(screenshot from Kono's NicoNama)

Japanese political system was really conservative and seemed that nothing would change- but services such as Ustream and Twitter are really changing the way we interact with politicians.