National / Politics

LDP grills TV executives but denies use of pressure tactics

by Reiji Yoshida and Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writers

A Liberal Democratic Party telecommunications panel on Friday conducted a closed-door meeting with executives from NHK and TV Asahi to demand “explanations” about editorial controversies at the broadcasters.

The meeting at LDP headquarters came amid criticism that the ruling party’s planned hearing would erode press freedoms and weaken independent state-licensed broadcasters.

The panel members denied pressuring TV Asahi or public broadcaster NHK. Both recently made headlines — TV Asahi for airing a critic who claimed his appearances on its popular news show were ended by state pressure, and NHK for a piece of allegedly contrived reporting.

They said the telecom panel merely asked questions to clarify the facts and neither expressed opinions nor made demands of the executives.

“We did not at all declare that something should be ‘this way’ or ‘that way.’ We only asked for the facts,” said former education minister Kenji Kosaka, who sits on the panel.

Among those summoned were TV Asahi Executive Managing Director Toshio Fukuda and NHK Vice President Hikaru Domoto.

Fukuda was asked about a guest’s anti-government tirade on Hodo Station on March 27. The show saw Shigeaki Koga, a well-known commentator, denounce Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and accuse Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga of behind-the-scenes meddling with the program.

Koga abruptly began his tirade even though newscaster Ichiro Furutachi tried to stop him. He said that the pressure from Suga got him axed from the show, and its main producer transferred to another section.

NHK’s Domoto was asked to detail the public broadcaster’s probe into allegations that an NHK reporter used a stand-in to fake an interview last year with loan fraud broker.

Afterward, Lower House member Jiro Kawasaki, who heads the panel, said it suspects both TV Asahi and NHK of breaking the Broadcasting Law, which in Article 4 requires state-licensed broadcasters to “report news without distorting facts.”

Kawasaki said a state-licensed TV station can be taken off the air for breaking the law, implying they must be perfect.

However, Kawasaki also emphasized that none of the panel members expressed an opinion at Friday’s meeting, and merely asked questions.

After leaving the meeting, Fukuda was asked if he felt pressured by the LDP panel.

But Fukuda only said he accepted the summons because he considered the meeting “a good opportunity” to explain the facts and avoid “misunderstandings.”

“Basically I have nothing more to say. You can make judgments from what I have just said,” Fukuda said, adding that he thought the politicians would give the media “an accurate briefing” on what was discussed.

Coronavirus banner