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article imageJapan radio host quits, told not to discuss Fukushima disaster

By Karen Graham     Feb 3, 2014 in Politics
In many countries, the media can sway public opinion on many issues, and if those issues are detrimental to an election, the politicians get nervous. This apparently was the case in Japan this week, when a radio host was asked to change his commentary.
Toru Nakakita, a professor of economics at Tokyo University, has been the host of the Business Outlook segment of Radio Asa Ichiban, owned by NHK, for the past twenty years. But on Wednesday the director of the morning news asked Nakakita to change his commentary after reviewing what he was going to discuss on Thursday, according to the Japan Times.
Nakakita was going to talk about the rising costs of operating nuclear power plants, worldwide. He also wanted to comment on the costs behind decommissioning nuclear power plants in Japan, and how the actual costs involved are not being reflected in the power companies balance sheets.
According to news sources, in the original script, Nakakita was going to say, “damages to be paid in the wake of a nuclear plant accident are extraordinarily high.” Even so, when the news director read the script and the apparently "damaging" comment, it was enough for him to tell Nakakita the comment "would affect the voting behavior” of their listeners, so he asked him to wait until after the upcoming elections on February 9th before airing his segment.
Nakakita argued the discussion was timely, “precisely because it is the campaign period,” but Japan's Broadcasting Corporation insisted it was not a matter of censorship, saying they wanted the piece to be balanced. An official with NHK said that because nuclear power is an issue in the elections is reason enough to present both sides of the issue.
"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,” the official said.
Nakakita was not completely satisfied with the official's decision, prompting him to quit. He pointed out that many issues being discussed in the media are considered "contentious," and people are openly discussing them, and have differing opinions. “I wonder if it’s OK to say we can talk about [contentious issues] at length only after the election," Nakakita told The Japan Times. “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 said. “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?”
Nuclear power is very much a controversial issue with the media in Japan, with lines being drawn in the sand on both sides. One radio and TV host, Peter Barakan,
who has several news and music programs on air, told listeners last week he had been approached "by two other broadcast stations (other than InterFM) and told not to touch on the nuclear issue until the gubernatorial election is over, even though the campaign has not officially kicked off.
More about fukushima disaster, Radio host, Election, utility companies, Censorship
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