In recent years, smartphones and tablet devices have become a popular tool for people to read news. But when they want to get breaking news on events such as earthquakes and preliminary voting results in elections, most people turn on the TV and tune in to NHK. This is probably because NHK is a public broadcaster and they trust it as a highly credible source of news. But what if NHK news programs are distorted by a particular person?
NHK’s mantra is “we respond to your voice.” But “we have a grave concern,” said a senior official at NHK’s news department.
“Koike is looked upon as a problem as he infers the desires of the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei],” the senior official said. “He meddles in news programs, such as the “Ohayo Nippon,” “News 7” and “News Watch 9.” He tampers with them.”
Who is Koike?
“He’s Hideo Koike, our news department chief,” the senior official said. “He kills stories that don’t toe the Kantei line. He chastises the floor when reported news comes under attack. This is how many of us perceive him. He is rumored to keep in direct contact with Takaya Imai, Prime Minister Abe’s right-hand man, who is called a shadow prime minister.”
“Like former President Katsuji Ebisawa, those who climbed to the top rungs of management were reporters who covered the former Keiseikai [Takeshita faction], but Koike was in charge of the Yamazaki faction, a minor group. He is making use of his connection with Imai, whom he cultivated as a contact before he became Abe’s secretary, manipulating news over which he can wield influence. He is currying favor with the Kantei in a desperate attempt to survive in the career race.”
Another NHK staffer gave an example of news distorted by Koike. “On news related to the Moritomo scandal, the noon program reported about the deletion of Mrs. Akie Abe’s remark ‘this is good land so please go ahead’ from the document, but News 7 made no mention of her remarks at the order of the department chief. Koike also pressured us not to lead with a story on the memo left by a Kinki Local Finance Bureau official who committed suicide.”
According to the NHK staffer, he phones the news center on the second floor from his office on the fifth floor when he gives instructions [not to report news that would displease the Kantei].
“He sometimes roams the second floor while making a phone call to someone,” the person said. “We call it a ‘K-Alert’ and are on tenterhooks. If programs are caught in this K-Alert radar, their editors are called to the fifth floor and return despondent.”
The staff member gave another example. “When we got a scoop that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) made an inquiry about the content of a lecture given by its former administrative vice minister, the K-Alert phone call came, ordering us not to report the lecture story together with the Moritomo scandal. But News Watch 9 reported them in succession, which infuriated Koike. He also interfered in our reporting of stories on the Emperor’s abdication and a daily log scandal involving the Ministry of Defense.”
To be fair, we must question both sides; who infers the Kantei’s desires and who gains from that inference. When we approached Imai, he said “I’m not obligated to answer your questions.” Then we approached Koike, but he remained mum. It appears that he won’t listen to anyone but the Kantei.