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2014年5月 9日 (金)


May 08, 2014
EDITORIAL: Momii’s behavior undermining NHK’s credibility

As a public and nonprofit entity, Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) should operate solely for the well-being of the public and outside the realm of government control. That is why NHK’s operations are financed by viewing fees paid by the public.

The job of the president is to supervise and manage its operations. But the current president, Katsuto Momii, has been behaving in a way that raises serious questions about NHK’s credibility.

Momii triggered renewed controversy April 30 during a meeting of the NHK Executive Board, which he used to criticize a news program on the concerns of elderly citizens over the April 1 rise in the consumption tax rate.
“It is not news if you only say that a tax hike caused anxiety,” he said, arguing that the program should also refer to discussions among policymakers on measures to ease the added financial burden on low-income earners.

Efforts by the media to present different views about issues in their reports should be welcomed. The Broadcast Law stipulates that programs aired by NHK or any other broadcasters should be “politically fair.” The law also says that when dealing with contentious issues, broadcasters should try to “clarify disputed points from as many different angles as possible.”

But the widely accepted legal interpretation of these provisions is that whether news coverage of contentious issues is balanced should be judged on the basis of all related programs aired by a broadcaster, not on each single program.

Even though the board members stressed they are trying hard to report different viewpoints through various programs, Momii would not be convinced.

As the person responsible for NHK’s programs, its president may sometimes find it necessary to get involved in debate over the content of specific programs.

In his inaugural news conference in January, however, Momii made remarks that indicated his support of the government’s policies.

He later retracted the comments, saying he had expressed his “personal views” in public. He also tried to reassure viewers by promising that NHK’s programs would not be based on his opinions. But he has yet to admit that his ideas are inappropriate, given his position as the top official of a public broadcaster.

Imagine what would happen if such a person started meddling in news programs on the government’s policies. This prospect raises concerns that NHK may not be able to properly perform its journalistic role of monitoring and checking government behavior. This would give rise to suspicions that NHK finds it difficult to broadcast programs that are critical of the government because of concerns about ruffling Momii’s feathers.

Momii has also resorted to strong-arm tactics in personnel affairs.

Soon after he took the top job at NHK, he forced all members of the Executive Board to submit undated letters of resignation.

In the personnel reshuffle of executive board members in late April, Momii urged two general managing directors, who had just been reappointed in February, to resign for no specific reasons.

When seeking consent for personnel changes from the Board of Governors, the upper-ranked decision-making body, Momii also refrained from disclosing his plan until the last moment on grounds the information could be leaked.

When a governor asked the president to explain his decision for changing the responsibilities of some managing directors, Momii just simply said these were matters that are the “sole prerogative of the president.”

We cannot help wondering how much consideration he gives to the feelings of people who pay viewing fees to NHK in the belief that a public broadcaster is necessary for the good of society.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 8


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