Japanese Revolt against Public TV; Irked by Political Censorship of Documentary on War Crimes

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 13, 2005 | Go to article overview

Japanese Revolt against Public TV; Irked by Political Censorship of Documentary on War Crimes


Byline: Lucille Craft, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TOKYO - More than 1 million Japanese households are refusing to pay a $12 monthly fee to NHK, the nation's elite public broadcasting corporation, to protest censorship of a documentary segment on crimes against humanity by Japanese soldiers in World War II.

Among the pieces of tape left on NHK's cutting room floor was footage of a "people's tribunal" organized by human rights groups and women's organizations, which contained testimony from victims and scholars surrounding the "comfort women" issue.

Moreover, the tribunal concluded with a "verdict" finding the late Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government guilty of war crimes.

The viewpoint proved unacceptable to senior Japanese politicians, who were allowed to view the documentary before it aired. They demanded changes and NHK reportedly complied.

"Having close ties with politicians and allowing them to preview programs - people were really exercised about that," said Keiichi Katsura, a prominent media critic and a professor at Tokyo's Rissho University.

"As NHK becomes bigger, it has also become more powerful, but it is not using its power properly and viewers were starting to lose confidence in public broadcasting. And the people most angry at NHK were its longtime supporters."

NHK denied charges of bias in the wartime documentary.

Every night across Japan, millions of homes tune in to the state-owned broadcasting network, Japan's answer to the British Broadcasting Corp. No commercial network in Japan even comes close, in terms of viewers or resources.

The first broadcaster in Japan, NHK was conceived in the early 20th century as a tool to enlighten the population. From a sprawling complex in western Tokyo, it now runs five TV channels and three radio services.

The broadcaster has been reeling from two recent scandals, one involving embezzlement of funds by a producer.

The second and more serious charge centers on accusations that NHK caved in to pressure from politicians and right-wing groups to alter its series, entitled "How Should We Adjudicate Wars? …

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