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NHK banned comedy duo's political jokes from New Year's show: Bakusho Mondai

Kyodo, Staff Report

NHK refused to let popular comedy duo Bakusho Mondai joke about politicians on its New Year’s television show, the duo revealed on a recent radio program aired by Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc.

What exactly the public broadcaster’s policy is on airing political jokes on the show is unclear.

NHK’s “Hatsuwarai Tozai Yose 2015” (“New Year’s laughter — East-West Comedy Theater 2015”) featured dozens of comedians and “rakugo” traditional comic storytellers from Tokyo and Osaka when it was aired on Jan. 3. Bakusho Mondai not only hosted the show, but also gave their own stand-up comedy performance.

Yuji Tanaka, half of the popular duo, said on a TBS radio show early Wednesday that the clampdown came while they were choreographing the show with NHK staff.

“We won’t allow any joke about politicians,” Tanaka quoted one NHK staffer as saying while reviewing the duo’s material for the show.

Hikari Ota, the other half of Bakusho Mondai, told TBS he doesn’t believe any kind of political pressure was involved in the NHK staffer’s decision but suggested the public broadcaster might be engaging in “self-restraint” on the subject.

At his regular news conference Thursday, maligned NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, who nearly a year ago tarnished the broadcaster’s dedication to neutrality by stating that NHK needs to back the government’s political views in international broadcasts, denied his involvement in the Bakusho Mondai problem.

Regarding political satire in general, Momii said he can’t tell right from wrong without examining specific cases.

NHK’s public relations section said it doesn’t disclose in detail how its programs are arranged.

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