NHK closer to getting order on North reports

by Hiroko Nakata

The Radio Regulatory Council, an advisory committee to the internal affairs and communications minister, Wednesday approved a ministerial directive to NHK to increase its reporting on North Korea’s abductions of Japanese on its shortwave radio programs.

The ministry said communications minister Yoshihide Suga will give the order to the public broadcaster soon. It would be the first postwar direct state order regarding specific broadcasting content.

Article 33 of the Broadcast Law, which took effect in 1950, says the minister has the authority to determine what NHK can broadcast overseas.

The law was thrown under the spotlight after Suga indicated last month that NHK should be ordered, under the law, to increase its reporting of Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s on its shortwave programs. Suga later said NHK’s overseas TV broadcasts should do likewise.

He was hit for the remarks, which were called a threat to freedom of the press.

Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said the government would welcome debate on the Broadcast Law, suggesting it would be an option to revise the 56-year-old law amid the recent controversy over the bid to pressure NHK on the content of its broadcasts.

“Since it is old legislation, it is one option to hold discussions over the Broadcast Law,” Shiozaki told a news conference. “The government would give the order under the legislation. (If there is a question over the order,) the content of the law itself should be questioned.”

The law allows the state to order NHK to air overseas programs on issues deemed important for the country.

Suga has claimed the broadcasts would be aimed at any abductees still alive in North Korea to give them hope that Japan has not given up on them. Pyongyang, however, has maintained that the five abductees it allowed to return home in 2002 were the only ones still alive.