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2009年8月14日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 13(IHT/Asahi: August 14,2009)
EDITORIAL: Broadcasting ethics

The Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization (BPO) is an industry watchdog run by the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and commercial networks. It recently made strict demands of two television companies.

It told Nippon Television Network Corp. (NTV) to make a program to clarify erroneous reporting on the program "Shinso Hodo Bankisha!" and demanded Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc. (TBS) take "appropriate measures" over a "serious violation of broadcasting ethics" by its program "Sunday Japon."

In both cases, the organization issued "advisories," the most serious category of recommendations. It issued a wake-up call about problems with program production, after delving into the causes of false reporting.

With regard to "Bankisha," the BPO once again pointed out its inadequacy in corroborating its coverage. Because of poor communication between NTV employees who direct coverage and the production company crew that goes on location to do the actual reporting, work to dig into the truth instead became an exercise to "procure" comments and images in time for the program to air.

"Sunday Japon" put together images that were shot on different days to give viewers a false impression. The comment of a personality who appeared on the show was also misleading. Personalities appeared on the live program without being given basic information. The situation exposed a disturbing lack of journalistic awareness from a program that purports to be a news show.

This time, the BPO addressed such problems as sloppy fact checking, programming that gives first priority to images without delving deeper into the issues and a lack of understanding among concerned parties. These problems are hidden in many parts of television programs. We can almost hear sighs of disappointment within the advisories that ask why such situations are repeated.

The BPO comprises members chosen from outside the broadcasting industry who discuss problems and come up with advisories and views. It is a matter of course for television stations that receive warnings to respect them. At the same time, the broadcasting industry as a whole also needs to seriously accept them.

Tsutomu Sato, minister of internal affairs and communications, made a comment that we find worrisome. Referring to the BPO, he said some people held the view that the watchdog made decisions to suit itself. Based on that observation, he went on to propose the establishment of a "system to constantly examine and monitor programs by an organization with certain powers" that keeps a certain distance from the ministry.

We don't think the BPO is run to suit itself. The comment, which could lead to the regulation of program content by the government, is very questionable.

Coverage of trials for the 1999 murder of a mother and child in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, illustrates the functions of the BPO.

Since many programs effectively criticized efforts to defend the accused, the BPO urged broadcasters to rethink their approach to criminal trials.

As a result, many programs adjusted their stance to better consider human rights.

Such efforts enhance the quality of broadcasts.

Some of the crew of "Bankisha" reportedly did not even know about the BPO.

Unless broadcasters thoroughly educate staff, the same mistakes will be repeated.

If broadcasters continue to produce programs that undermine the trust of viewers, they could encourage moves by the administration to interfere in program production and impose regulations.

NTV plans to shortly air a program to clarify its false reporting on "Bankisha."

We urge it to recover trust through sincere reflection and thorough examination, because autonomy is the path to protect broadcasting freedom.


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