The communications ministry issued its most serious censure Friday against Kansai Telecasting Corp. for passing off theories concocted from fabricated data as scientifically sound on one of its TV programs, ministry officials said.
Kansai Telecasting President Soichiro Chigusa indicated the same day that he may resign. “I intend to come clean about how to deal with the issue of responsibility after we broadcast a program clarifying how the misconduct was committed,” Chigusa said.
The reprimand, the gravest of its kind issued under the name of the internal affairs and communications minister, was conveyed directly to Chigusa, who was summoned to the ministry, according to the officials.
Last week, a panel of experts hired by Kansai Telecasting said the broadcaster’s variety program “Hakkutsu! Aruaru Daijiten II,” which drew fire for presenting erroneous information about the health benefits of “natto” fermented soybeans in January, similarly aired “inappropriate” data on 15 other episodes aired in 2005 and 2006.
The natto program, which aired Jan. 7, alleged that consuming natto regularly for two weeks helped the people taking part in an experiment lose weight. The program turned out to have falsified a foreign researcher’s comments.
Before taking the disciplinary move, communications minister Yoshihide Suga said the same day at a press conference, “It is quite deplorable that untruths were broadcast for a long period of time on public airwaves.”
The minister told Kansai Telecasting to present within one month a specific plan of action it will take to prevent a recurrence of the misconduct and report on the progress made through the remedial measures in three months.
The ministry earlier considered taking the unprecedented step of having the firm suspend broadcasting on grounds that it repeatedly released misinformation through its TV show dedicated to health matters and betrayed the public’s trust in broadcast media.
But it refrained from such action because the company management took the blame for the incidents in its final report submitted to the ministry.
Suga, however, indicated the ministry might mete out a harsher punishment should the broadcaster commit the same kind of infraction, which constitutes a violation of the Broadcast Law.
The ministry decided not to reprimand Fuji Television Network Inc. and other affiliated TV stations that aired the program.
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