For millions of Japanese, and even Japan-watchers abroad, NHK is a trusted source of information: gray in tone perhaps, but neither black nor white on the issues. This assumption has been put to the test by new NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, whose recent remarks have led many to wonder whether the public broadcaster is more government mouthpiece and muzzler of dissension than independent informer.

At a news conference on Jan. 25, the day he took charge of the national broadcaster, Momii set off a firestorm of protest by appearing to align NHK with the government.

"When the government is saying, 'Right,' we can't say, 'Left.' International broadcasting has such a (propagandist) nuance," Momii said.