Regarding the April 7 front-page article “Cabinet OKs bill to boost grip on broadcasters“: The fears of censorship are entirely understandable. Japan must have laws covering fraud. But don’t such laws already apply to broadcasters?
Why does the communications minister need to be granted special powers to punish broadcasters? Some explanation would be helpful. In addition, it was not clear from the story who was held to be at fault for the release of misleading information concerning a diet. Were these incidents “informercials” as we have in the United States — where essentially half-hour-long commercials are dressed up to resemble television programs?
If this is the case, the producers of the programs should be held accountable, not the broadcasters themselves. On the other hand if, for example, the misleading items were released as “news” on an evening news shows, then the extremity of the Cabinet’s reaction would be more understandable. Still, there should be some less heavy-handed way of ensuring honesty in broadcasting. Communications minister Yoshihide Suga’s reassurances that he “will not invoke the provision” as long as the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization ensures that broadcasters do not air programs with false information sounds vague and un-policeable.
Who will judge whether an error results from the intention to mislead or from a genuine mistake? Who, in fact, will judge whether a piece of information is false?
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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