NHK chief tells board ‘comfort women’ remarks no big deal

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The controversy swirling around NHK shows no sign of simmering down, with Chairman Katsuto Momii reportedly playing down the explosive nature of the remarks he made at his first news conference in January over the wartime brothels used by the Imperial Japanese military.

Some media outlets reported Wednesday that during an NHK board of governors meeting Feb. 12, Momii said, “What’s wrong with my comments and I have already recanted them. . . . You would understand my intention if you read the transcript” of his first news conference, when he said all countries in wartime have had systems similar to Japan’s forced prostitution.

The media reports said Momii’s comments at the board meeting were in response to a governor who asked how he would deal with the situation if more viewers refuse to pay their NHK fees, which are supposed to be paid by everybody who owns a TV.

Asked about this issue by an opposition lawmaker during Wednesday’s session of the Upper House Internal Affairs Committee, Momii refused to confirm or comment on the media reports.

“I would rather not . . . comment on this. The minutes of the meeting will be produced by the NHK board of governors,” he said in an apparent effort to avoid further verbal blunders.

The Broadcast Law mandates that NHK disclose the logs of its board of governors meetings.

Momii’s cautious attitude comes amid rising public criticism against the public broadcaster, which counts on user fees for 97 percent of its revenue. NHK said it received some 17,900 comments from viewers on Momii’s remarks, of which more than 60 percent were critical. The Diet is also slated next month to deliberate NHK’s budget, which the Liberal Democratic Party’s general council approved Wednesday.

Meanwhile, comments on history issues by NHK governor and novelist Naoki Hyakuta have also drawn harsh criticism from the public, possibly casting a shadow on the government’s efforts to use the broadcaster as a global PR instrument.

To this end, the government is requesting a ¥3.4 billion-budget for NHK World, its international service, in the 2014 fiscal year, which starts April 1.

Hyakuta, one of 12 NHK governors, said the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was carried out to steer attention away from the “genocide” of the U.S. air raids on Tokyo as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He made the remarks during a campaign speech for unsuccessful Tokyo gubernatorial candidate Toshio Tamogami.

The U.S. Embassy criticized Hyakuta’s remarks and it is reportedly reluctant to give NHK an interview with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

  • Daiji

    I don’t pay my NHK bill for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t own a T.V. – because of the garbage they put out on NHK. Secondly, because it pays this guys salary. Once they get someone decent in charge of NHK that doesnt push a far right wing agenda, fueled by animosity towards our Chinese and Korean neighbors – then I may invest in a T.V. again.