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Momii vows balanced, unbiased programming

Diet grills NHK boss on remarks

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

In an effort to dodge criticism that he is unqualified to lead NHK, its embattled president, Katsuto Momii, told the Diet Friday the contentious remarks at his first official press conference last week were not the broadcaster’s official views but his own.

“What I said at the press conference are my personal views and will not be reflected in the contents of NHK programs,” Momii said in the Diet after being summoned by the powerful Lower House Budget Committee.

Former communications minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi of the Democratic Party of Japan grilled Momii on his understanding of Articles 1 and 4 of the Broadcasting Law, which requires all broadcasters to present various views.

Momii kicked off a furor last week by seeming to defend the government’s wartime use of sex slaves and making biased assertions on the purpose of NHK’s international broadcasts and the new state secrets law.

In the Diet, Haraguchi argued that the former business executive had no understanding of the articles because his comments reflected an intention to avoid airing diverse viewpoints on such divisive issues as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shine or the much debated state secrets law enacted in December.

Momii’s comments conflicted with NHK’s apparent mandate of neutrality, he said.

“The role of NHK is not to become a mouthpiece for the government but to deliver various views to viewers,” Haraguchi said.

Momii’s summons was issued by the DPJ, but the only thing Momii could say in his defense was that NHK will pursue fair reporting and try to present various views.

Despite the mounting criticism against him, Momii didn’t give the impression that he is taking the matter seriously. Occasionally he would laugh and ask Haraguchi to repeat his questions, apparently because he couldn’t understand them.

Momii started coming under fire on Jan. 25, when he said at his first official press conference of his three-year term that every country used systems similar to the Imperial Japanese military’s “comfort women” system of brothels.

He also said that under his watch, NHK would only report any future visits by Abe to Yasukuni Shrine in a straight manner without analysis, despite the contentious political nature of such visits.

On the state secrecy law, Momii said there is nothing that can be done because it has already been enacted and NHK would only run an analysis piece on the issue whenever deemed necessary.

On Thursday, a member of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) defended Momii’s remarks on the comfort women.

Masashi Nakano, a member of the House of Councilors, expanded on remarks he made Wednesday that drew a connection between Momii’s comments at his first press conference and the sex industries as they exist today in South Korea and China.

“In South Korea, 50,000 women still work in the sex industry,” Nakano said Wednesday during a meeting with other opposition lawmakers. “Why do people keep bringing up what Japan has done (during the war)?” he asked.

On Thursday, Nakano told reporters he made the remarks while discussing with senior officials of other opposition parties how to deal with the aftermath of Momii’s faux pas, and noted these were his “personal opinions.”

Information from Kyodo added