Major broadcaster Nippon Television Network Corp. has been forced to suspend a segment on foreign festivals on its popular variety show after a weekly magazine reported earlier this month that the program fabricated some of the content.
The program “Sekai no Hate Made Itte Q,” in which a popular comedian participates in unique festivals around the world, invented festivals in Thailand and Laos, according to the weekly Shukan Bunshun.
The Thai “festival” featured in a broadcast in February last year involved a competition to harvest cauliflowers. The Laos one, broadcast this May, involved crossing a small wooden bridge on a bike.
The variety show, which airs on Sundays, has a viewer rating of about 20 percent in the Kanto region, making it Nippon TV’s most popular program.
“I apologize for creating suspicion and worries,” Nippon TV President Yoshio Okubo told a news conference on Thursday while denying the program set out to deceive.
“There was no intention of fabrication or making things up,” he said. “The production team stretched the concept of the festival too much and featured some events as festivals, even though they were difficult for viewers to imagine as festivals,” he said.
Okubo said a company in charge of coordinating overseas shooting for the variety show was involved in organizing some of the festivals, proposing festival projects or paying prize money from the budget for shooting expenses.
An internal probe will investigate about 110 aired tapes, the president said, adding the broadcaster will consider whether to punish people involved with the program.
A TV watchdog, the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization, has demanded that Nippon TV report on the issue.
Some in the industry fear the alleged fabrication may make people lose trust in broadcasters at a time when an increasing number of people, particularly youth, are said to be turning away from TV amid the rise of the internet and social networking services.
“We’re in an era when even a lie regarded as acceptable in the industry leads to ruining viewers’ trust in us,” said a senior official of a major broadcaster. “We must be aware of their strict attitude.”
Takahiko Kageyama, a professor of media theory at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, said, “Producers tend to think news reports and variety shows are different, but for the viewers, they are both the same TV broadcast. Creators should never forget that.”