Comments on Bill to Amend the Broadcast Law
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) is going to submit a bill to amend the Broadcast Law during the current Diet session. Responding to the misconduct of the Kansai Telecasting Corporation using fictitious evidence and fabricated data in its programs, the bill includes a new system that if a broadcasting company has aired a program which causes or could cause misunderstanding among viewers as though an untrue thing is a true one by false explanation and have or could have a harmful effect on the nation's economy and people's lives, the MIC requests the broadcasting company to submit measures to prevent recurrence of such misconduct and will publish the measures with comments of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Broadcasting companies should have strict ethics when they create and edit programs since broadcasting is a highly public activity. Especially, it is unforgivable that fabricated data were used in the TV shows dealing with foods which could give serious impact on people's health. Such misconduct should never be repeated and broadcasting companies must take the incident seriously and make efforts to recover the public's trust.
However, the government should not use this incident to restrict freedom of the media at all. Freedom of the media is a pillar of the contemporary democracy and should be fully respected. We concern that if an administrative organ which has the authority to grant broadcast licenses requests the submission of measures to prevent recurrence of misconduct for requirements that are not clearly specified, broadcasting companies could be greatly daunted by the authority, and it could be detrimental to the people's right to know. It is desirable that broadcasting companies solve the matters of broadcasting ethics by disciplining themselves.
The Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO), a third-party organization established by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters, announced that it would launch a committee on establishment of broadcasting ethics and prevention of recurrence of misconduct. This new committee will issue a warning or a comment to a broadcasting company of which program leads viewers to a significant misunderstanding by airing a mendacious program, will request the company to submit measures to prevent recurrence of the misconduct, and will publish the measures with BPO's opinions.
The JFBA requests broadcasting companies to reinforce functions and authority of the BPO in order to solve ethical problems by themselves and prevent recurrence of similar misconduct. Therefore, the MIC should watch the above mentioned effort of broadcasting companies, analyze efficiency of their system to prevent recurrence of misconduct, gather opinions of parties concerned, and carefully consider on the system to be introduced by the bill.
Consequently, the JFBA urges the MIC to delete the system from the current bill.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
March 28, 2007