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Nikkei chief vows to ensure FT's editorial independence

TOKYO, July 25, 2015

Top executives at Nikkei pledged to preserve the editorial independence of the Financial Times after the Japanese media group's $1.3 billion purchase of the British business newspaper, which has sometimes been critical of its new owner.

"I would like to clearly state that we have complete faith in their editor-in-chief and editorial direction, and that their editorial independence will remain unchanged," Nikkei chairman Tsuneo Kita told a news conference on the deal, which has stunned the media world.

The biggest acquisition by a Japanese media organisation raises questions about how the new ownership might affect the editorial direction of the FT, especially coverage of Japanese companies in which Nikkei has enjoyed dominance for years.

Nikkei chief executive officer Naotoshi Okada bristled at the suggestion that its flagship business daily was a ‘mouthpiece’ for corporate Japan that had initially ignored, then soft-pedalled an accounting scandal at Olympus Corp - a story the FT broke.

"On the Olympus reporting, we may have been late, but that doesn't mean we held back. We are not thinking of making the FT do the same as us editorially," Okada said.

"The FT makes its pages according to the FT's editorial direction, we make our pages according to our editorial direction."

In 2014 the FT, which already has editorial and business tie-ups with the Nikkei, wrote critically about ‘Nikkei previews’ of Japanese corporate earnings, which it said were systematic ‘apparent leaks’ from companies to the newspaper.

Okada also said the Nikkei was not planning staff reductions or mergers of the two papers' bureaus, although it could consolidate bureaus in separate offices into single locations. He said Nikkei would invest to support the FT's future growth.

Kita said FT parent Pearson PLC approached Nikkei through an investment bank about five weeks ago and that he met Pearson CEO John Fallon in London this week.

"Yesterday, Okada, I and (Fallon) held a conference call, which lasted very long, and decided the price there," he said.

Asked about how long he has been a reader of the salmon-coloured British paper, Kita said his English was not good enough to read the FT completely or for pleasure, but that he "glances" at the web version every day. - Reuters




Tags: Financial | Times | Nikkei | independence | editorial |

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