Scholar quits NHK over nuclear power hush-up — The Japan Times; Japan’s public broadcaster faces accusations of shift to the right — The New York Times

” A noted professor who regularly provides commentary on an NHK AM radio show has resigned from the program in protest over the public broadcaster’s demand that nuclear power not be discussed until after the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Toru Nakakita, a professor of economics at Toyo University in Tokyo, said the director of the “Radio 1″ morning news program told him Wednesday to change the subject of his commentary, after he had submitted an outline for a segment to air the following day.

The segment, “Business Tenbo” (“Business Outlook”), which is broadcast every weekday morning, features guest commentary from academics in the fields of business and economics. For the Thursday morning edition, Nakakita was planning to talk about the rising operating costs of nuclear power worldwide, in light of a recent surge in insurance premiums and safety costs. He was also intending to discuss the fact that in Japan the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants is not adequately reflected on the utilities’ balance sheets.

After reviewing his draft, the director of the news program told him to wait until after the election, on grounds his comments “would affect the voting behavior” of the listeners, Nakakita quoted the NHK director as saying.

An official in NHK’s public relations department acknowledged the demand had been made. The public TV and radio network, the official said, has a responsibility to “ensure fairness by introducing both sides of the issues on a program-to-program or a series-to-series basis.”

The official said Nakakita’s commentary couldn’t be aired because NHK had determined it wasn’t possible to book another expert with an opposing view during Thursday’s segment, or on the same program before the end of the election campaign.

“Nuclear power is one of the issues in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, and we need to be especially careful about ensuring fairness,” the official said. “It could have been possible to feature another expert with a different viewpoint soon before or after (Nakakita’s) appearance, but because we received his draft the day before the scheduled broadcast, and because we have limited editions of the program during the campaign period, we decided it would be difficult to air a contrasting view.”

“Economists deal in all things in nature,” Nakakita told The Japan Times.

“The director kept insisting that people vote based on ‘impressions.’ But I wonder if it’s OK to say we can talk about (contentious issues) at length only after the election. What if I had talked about welfare? Wouldn’t that have affected the voting behavior?

“The media should choose various issues especially during the campaign,” he added. “If they don’t, voters will go to the polls with no information to base their judgments on. Isn’t it the mission of the news organizations to have the guts to give more information to the public?” he said.

Nuclear power came to the fore of the gubernatorial race when former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, a staunch opponent of nuclear power, announced his candidacy.

Last week, Peter Barakan, a freelance radio show host, revealed in his morning music and news program on InterFM that he had been pressured by “two broadcasting stations” not to touch on nuclear power issues until after Feb. 9. He didn’t identify the stations, but he works for NHK FM Radio and NHK World, as well as other private TV and radio stations. ”


The New York Times article:

” TOKYO — First, there was the abrupt resignation of a president accused by governing party politicians of allowing an overly liberal tone to news coverage. Then, his newly appointed successor immediately drew public ire when he seemed to proclaim that he would loyally toe the line of the current conservative government.

Still more public criticism came Thursday, when a longtime commentator on economic affairs angrily announced that he had resigned after being told not to criticize nuclear power ahead of a crucial election.

These are hard times for NHK, Japan’s influential public broadcaster, which faces an increasing number of accusations that the pro-nuclear, right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is interfering in its work. NHK’s new president, Katsuto Momii, a former vice president at a trading company, seemed to confirm those fears in his inaugural news conference last weekend, when he stated, “We cannot say left when the government says right.” …

… The broadcaster has also been accused of blunting its criticism of atomic power and the Fukushima disaster because of pressure from the powerful nuclear industry and its political allies in the governing party. Jun Hori, a popular NHK television news announcer, quit last year after he was questioned by superiors for more than six hours about a documentary that he had made describing nuclear accidents in the United States.

On Thursday, Toru Nakakita, an economics professor, said he had severed ties with an NHK radio show on which he had appeared regularly for 20 years after it told him not to say anything critical of nuclear power to avoid possibly swaying a coming election for Tokyo governor. An NHK spokesman said the demand was made to ensure balanced coverage during the election.

“NHK is scared of being criticized as antinuclear,” said Mr. Hori, who now works as a freelance journalist. “NHK has become a place where it is hard to speak out against authority. This is unhealthy for democracy.” “

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