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2016年4月14日 (木)

TBS批判 まっとうな言論活動か

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 13
EDITORIAL: Attack on TBS TV an act of crude intimidation, not free speech
(社説)TBS批判 まっとうな言論活動か
Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings Inc., operator of the TBS TV station, issued a statement earlier this month concerning an organization that has publicly declared its intention to put pressure on the broadcaster’s sponsors.

Calling itself “an association of television viewers demanding compliance with the Broadcast Law,” the group maintains that TBS’s news reports violate the Broadcast Law, and says it is preparing a “national campaign to alert sponsors.”

In its statement, TBS rebutted: “Fully cognizant of our mission as a news organization to introduce diverse opinions and keep public authorities in check, we autonomously aim for fair and impartial programming.”

The broadcaster stressed, “The (group’s) open declaration of its intent to apply pressure on our sponsors represents a grave threat to freedom of expression and, ultimately, to democracy itself.”

The purpose of the Broadcast Law is to guarantee freedom of expression and encourage the healthy development of democracy. TBS’s comment is fully compatible with the spirit of this law, and we support it.

The viewers’ association has been attacking TBS since last autumn, and it kept track of the airtime the network gave to its coverage of the controversial national security legislation.
After establishing that TBS gave more airtime to reports that were critical of the legislation, the association accused TBS of failing to maintain political neutrality.

But it is the mission of any news organization to examine legislation pushed by the administration of the time, and raise questions and discuss problems. And with something like national security legislation that was of great interest to the public, the network obviously needed to thoroughly report on the issue by airing diverse opinions that differed from the administration’s, including critical views.

As for the matter of putting pressure on broadcasters, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party legislator held a study meeting in June last year, in which a comment was made to the effect, “The most effective way to punish mass media is to cut off revenues from their sponsors.”

Such thinking fully endorses browbeating by political authorities. This is simply unacceptable.

On the other hand, viewers are free to criticize TV programs, and broadcasters must humbly heed such complaints. However, what the viewers’ association has done is arbitrarily interpret the Broadcast Law and attempt to systematically manipulate the public into joining the “cause.”

In its statement, the association notified TBS that unless the latter “responds with sincerity,” a proposal will be sent to its sponsors to prevent them from becoming “accomplices” in “illegal broadcasting that negatively impacts society.”

The association also stated its intention to recruit volunteers online and “take further action as needed,” depending on the sponsors’ response.

This is applying pressure, pure and simple.

There are many ways to complain about TV programs, including taking the complaints to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization. And yet, the viewers’ association remains focused on forcing TBS to change its reporting stance by hitting its revenue source--namely, the sponsors. Such a tactic cannot possibly constitute an exercise of the right to free speech.

Should any autonomous broadcaster become incapable of continuing to provide fair and unbiased reporting and keeping public authorities in check, the public loses.

The media must reconfirm the heavy responsibility they bear to protect the public’s right to know.


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