Party governments in Japan during the period from 1924 to 1932 joined a majority of the European democracies in imposing rigid state controls over the new medium of radio. Over the years many elected governments have restricted political expression over radio despite the strong logical connection between free elections and free speech, and this article examines the Japanese case in a comparative perspective. It analyzes the decision-making process that produced Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK), the public-interest radio monopoly, in Japan in 1926, as well as the exercise of state controls over broadcasting until the last prewar party cabinet fell in 1932. Various definitions of the public interest that are consistent with democratic values may nonetheless call for close state supervision of broadcasting. In Japan, the rationale for the control of radio resembled the rationales of many contemporary democracies. The Japanese experience suggests that, although broadcasting controls may not have contradicted democratic principles, the development of a strong democratic regime would have been better served by a liberal policy toward the new electronic medium.

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