National

NHK president denies it nixed program about Japan Post's insurance practices due to outside pressure

JIJI, Kyodo

NHK President Ryoichi Ueda denied Thursday that outside complaints caused the cancellation of a program about inappropriate sales practices for Japan Post Insurance Co. products.

“It’s not the case that independence or freedom of creating programs has been impaired,” Ueda told a regular news conference.

Regarding the public broadcaster’s decision to cancel the airing of a follow-up to the original program on the issue, Ueda said, “Due to insufficient coverage, it was judged necessary to continue collecting information.”

NHK aired the original program in April last year, reporting on cases in which Japan Post Insurance’s customers, mainly the elderly, were left at a disadvantage after contract renewal or similar policies were sold to the same individual to meet sales quotas. After that, the public broadcaster posted a video online to ask Japan Post Insurance policyholders and post office workers to provide information in order to create the follow-up program.

In July that year, Japan Post Holdings Co. group, including the insurance company, protested to the president and requested NHK delete the video, saying it gave the impression that sales practices tantamount to criminal acts were conducted systematically.

The Japan Post group also complained NHK’s governance system was not working, after an NHK official told the group that Ueda was not involved in producing programs, as production and management were separated.

The broadcaster’s board of governors strictly admonished Ueda to reinforce the broadcaster’s governance system in October last year, determining that the official’s remark was erroneous.

NHK deleted the video and canceled the broadcast of the follow-up program.

In July this year, the Japan Post group announced that it erroneously sold around 183,000 insurance policies to customers over the past five years.

In a joint hearing held by opposition parties Thursday, Yasuo Suzuki, a senior executive with Japan Post Holdings, denied that he applied pressure to NHK by taking advantage of his career at the communications ministry.

After the session, Suzuki, a former vice minister at the ministry, blasted NHK, telling reporters that the broadcaster is “almost like a yakuza crime group.”

When the Japan Post group protested to NHK, the broadcaster said it would remove the video if the group accepted an interview, according to Suzuki.

“They punch us and say, ‘You listen to me if you don’t want to take any more punches.’ How ridiculous!” Suzuki also said.

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