(Tokyo Shimbun: February 20, 2015 – p. 5)
At a meeting with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) on Feb. 18 to explain NHK’s management plans, NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii was questioned on his previous controversial remarks.
He was forced to defend himself throughout the meeting on remarks such as his statement on Feb. 5 that whether NHK will take up the comfort women issue in its programming will depend on the government’s policy. He was also questioned on his demand for all members of the board of governors to submit letters of resignation right after he took over as chairman. After the meeting, Momii grumbled that the questions were “nonsense” and he engaged a DPJ lawmaker who protested this remark in an exchange of verbal jabs.
Such loss of temper that was so unbecoming for an official who is the leader of over 10,000 employees was also shown on TV.
Each morning, NHK-BS broadcasts the news reporting of the major TV stations in the world, which closely reflect the national character from the newscasters’ demeanor to the contents of the reports. The most important difference is in their distance from the government. The BBC and France 2 maintain a proper distance and report on their governments from a level-headed and critical standpoint. On the other hand, Russia’s RTR appears to be nothing but a propaganda arm of the government dominated by President Vladimir Putin.
As indicated by his statement that “we cannot say left if the government says right,” Momii has been criticized for being pro-government since he first became NHK chairman and doubts have been voiced on his suitability to lead NHK. He is now in his second year but it is apparent from the above statement that he does not see any problem or feel any remorse about this.
Broadcasting is very influential. Article 1 of the Broadcast Law stipulates impartiality and Article 3 requires that there must be no interference in broadcasters unless based on powers authorized by law, guaranteeing freedom of program contents.
Article 4 calls for clarifying diverse viewpoints on issues with conflicting opinions. This is of particular importance for such issues as right to collective self-defense, reactivation of nuclear plants, and the base issues in Okinawa.
The viewers are now more concerned that NHK may become the mouthpiece of the powers that be.
Mr. Momii should be asking himself if he is suitable to head a public broadcaster. (Slightly abridged)