Barakan says broadcasters told him to avoid nuclear issues till after poll

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Freelance TV and radio commentator Peter Barakan said he was pressured by two broadcast stations to steer clear of nuclear power issues on his programs until after the Tokyo gubernatorial election on Feb. 9, causing concern among some about possible media censorship.

Barakan, who hosts the three-hour radio show “Barakan Morning” every Monday through Thursday on InterFM, a private radio station, mentioned the “requests” on his live show Monday but didn’t identify the stations. Nor did he say when or why the requests were made.

“I have been told by two stations (other than InterFM) not to touch on the nuclear issue until the gubernatorial election is over, even though the campaign has not officially kicked off,” he said during the show.

In no time, listeners were posting comments, particularly on Twitter, expressing their shock and outrage at the possible restraint on freedom of speech. Contacted by The Japan Times on Wednesday, Barakan said he was taken aback by the uproar but preferred not to go into detail about the matter. In addition to “Barakan Morning,” he hosts several other news and music shows on radio and TV, including for NHK.

“What happened was, I made a very casual comment on my program, and I didn’t anticipate how overheated Twitter was going to get,” he said. “It took me a little by surprise. It’s gone a little bit too far.

“I probably made the wrong comment,” he added. “But somebody needs to bring these issues into the media. I probably should’ve done it in a different way.”

The direction of the nation’s nuclear policy came to the forefront of public debate again earlier this month when former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, an opponent of nuclear power, announced his intention to seek the governorship. Backed by popular ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, another outspoken critic of nuclear power, a Hosokawa victory could deal a severe blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to promote nuclear power overseas and restart the nation’s reactors, some of which are now undergoing safety checks made mandatory after the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Hosokawa has expressed his resolve to phase out atomic power if elected. While Tokyo hosts no nuclear plants, its governor has great influence over governors of other prefectures hosting them.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also one of the largest shareholders of the struggling Tepco.