Friday, January 14, 2005

NHK and RTM...

There is a somewhat rare drama unfolding at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, known by its Japanese acronym NHK.

NHK is somewhat like our RTM in that its budget is dependant on the Japanese parliament, the Diet.

Unlike the RTM, NHK is very much independently managed and run, offering high quality, unbiased news, programs and commentaries.

One particular program that I like is the 'Nichiyo Touron' or the Sunday Debate, whereby politicians and political watchers are invited to debate on current political issues.

A wide spectrum of individuals from the ruling and opposition parties, universities, and various business arenas get to speak in a very well moderated environment.

There are very little, if any, accusations from the public of biased and unfair reporting by NHK.

However, earlier this week, a mainstream newspaper called Asahi Shinbum broke news of an apparent meddling by the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Asahi Shinbum quoted an anonymous source saying that NHK executives ordered revisions to be made to the program because NHK couldn't afford to resist LDP politicians' demands at a time when its budget was being deliberated in the Diet.

The whistle blower was Mr. Satoru Nagai, the NHK producer for the 2001 documentary on Japanese war crimes.

Reports the Japan Times...
"We were ordered to alter the program before it was aired," Satoru Nagai told reporters in Tokyo. "I would have to say that the alteration was made against the backdrop of political pressure."

The program originally included footage of a mock trial held by civic groups in December 2000.

The "verdict" found the late Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, guilty of permitting the sexual slavery.

Historians say Japan sent as many as 200,000 women -- many from the Korean Peninsula, which was then under Japanese rule -- to frontline brothels that served Japanese soldiers.

Japan called the sex slaves "comfort women."

This segment was substantially cut before NHK aired the program.

Bear in mind that we are talking about political interference in just one documentary program, not a systematic pattern of interferences on multiple programs as in RTM.

The LDP has always been, understandably, rather 'defensive' when it comes to the emperor, especially Hirohito.

The two high profile LDP politicians involved, Shinzo Abe and Shoichi Nakagawa, are denying the allegations that they pressured NHK.

But I have a feeling that more worms will crawl out soon.

In speaking out, there is too much to lose on the part of Mr. Nagai, a sobbing family man with dependants.

Unlike the brazenly slanted environment at RTM, I think more worms will spill out...