Editorial: Full minutes of NHK postal insurance meeting reveal interference
Public broadcaster NHK’s report on the predatory sales practices of the Japan Post Insurance Co. was castigated by its own board of governors in a way that may have violated broadcasting law, recently released documents confirmed.
Minutes of meetings in which the board censored NHK chairman Ryoichi Ueda for schedules were eventually released by NHK, setting out details of the exchanges.
The problem was brought to light by reports from the Mainichi Shimbun. The reprimands were primarily guided by then-chairman of the board of governors, Susumu Ishihara, and then by interim chairman Shunzo Morishita, who is now chairman of the board, in response to resistance from the management of Japan Post Holdings Co .
The public record shows that severe reprimands were issued a total of three times, including at a meeting held on October 23, 2018.
The program in question was public in its reporting modes and had used open journalistic methods, including making online appeals for people to provide information.
Morishita is recorded as making critical statements during the meeting, including: “Was this a proper investigation? “And” What does it mean for us to have a program that puts forward only a one-sided point of view? He was also described as having said, “The reporting, including the coverage of this program, has been totally amateurish.”
Japan’s broadcasting law prohibits the Board of Governors from interfering with the editing of individual programs. The law aims to separate management and drafting activities.
Morishita’s statements focused on the manner of reporting and the content of the programming, and there are suspicions that they broke the law. Ueda was concerned enough at the meeting to say that the reprimand was “going to become an extraordinarily important issue.”
Morishita maintains that he only raised issues with the organizational management of the NHK president. But the minutes show that he attempted to present the problem as a governance issue while being aware that interference with the programs was prohibited.
The prolonged reluctance of the Governing Council to publish the minutes in full is also problematic.
A third party body set up by NHK twice recommended full disclosure of the minutes. After the first recommendation, the Board of Governors released a redacted version of the document in response to an access to information request filed by the Mainichi Shimbun.
Although the full document has now been released, it came five months after the third body’s second recommendation – after the National Diet session ended. It is inevitable that the extension will be interpreted as an attempt to prevent the matter from being pursued by the legislature.
The Governing Council is NHK’s most powerful decision-making body. Its members are appointed by the Prime Minister after approval by the Diet.
Since the issues came to light, Morishita has been re-appointed to the board, later becoming its chairman. This inappropriate appointment should be withdrawn immediately.