LDP grills TV executives but denies use of pressure tactics

by and

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.

  • Ernest Schaal

    If the LDP did not try to pressure the media, why did they have to do the meeting behind closed doors?

  • Liars N. Fools

    The LDP should summon Murakami immediately, under armed guard if necessary. He cannot be allowed to spew his masochistic reconciliation crap. He must be stopped.

  • timefox

    The government is requesting a broadcast of the fair contents. It’s wrong to interpret that as the pressure.

    It’s funny that a wrongdoer behaves himself like a victim.

    • Stephen Kent

      What would you do if someone told you to come to their office and explain yourself for making a comment that differs in essence from the other comments here?

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      …and it just so happens that “fair contents” are the government’s point of view? Disagreeing with that is “unfair?”

    • batbrewer

      “The government” isn’t requesting anything — it’s the LDP. But this isn’t anything new — even in the days when the DPJ was in power and the LDP in opposition, TV execs were summoned to meetings with *LDP* bigwigs to explain their recent and near-future programming. I kid you not.

      The LDP has never really accepted the “D” in its name, and behaves like a de facto junta. And always has. People like TV execs cave in to it because they know that one day the LDP will be back in control (as it now is) and will go after them.

  • Stephen Kent

    I don’t understand how the LDP, a political party, saw fit to summon the head of TV Asahi nor why Mr. Fukuda thought he had to comply with this summons. Are the LDP now so sure of their complete domination of Japan that they feel comfortable openly admitting that they see themselves as the highest power in the land and can’t even be bothered to pretend to pursue their agenda through the organs of the government that they control? At least the authoritarian government in China (that the LDP often holds up as the biggest threat to Japan) go through some dubious court or other when they crack down on dissent, but it looks like the LDP are trying to out do the CCP by just demanding people they don’t agree with come directly to their offices to explain themselves. What’s next, an LDP party representative at every company to keep tabs on ideology?