The International Federation of Journalists is backing a high-profile campaign by workers at Japan’s public broadcasting station NHK who are calling for the resignation of the company president after a series of corruption scandals that have shocked viewers and have led to a damaging loss of public support.
Unless the President, Mr Katsuji Ebisawa, stands down the union warns that NHK income this year could fall by up to 100,000,000 US Dollars, as thousands of subscribers refuse to renew their NHK contracts.
But Ebisawa is refusing to go and has angered journalists and other NHK workers by dismissing the 113,000 NHK viewers who have refused to pay their license fee over the scandals up to November by saying that, “This figure cannot be interpreted as definite non-payment.” On their side the unions say the public boycott of the station is disastrous.
“The credibility and integrity of one of the world’s leading public broadcasters is at stake,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a letter to the company’s board of directors. “Someone must take responsibility and NHK must act to restore public confidence.”
Scandals at the station broke last year after press coverage of accounting dishonesty by an NHK producer who embezzled around 350,000 Euro. Further corruption was exposed and the crisis was discussed by a Parliamentary Committee responsible for Public Management, Home Affairs, Post and Telecommunications in September.
Further controversy engulfed the station when NHK refused to televise the parliamentary hearing live and produced an edited version of the discussions further enraging viewers and many of the company’s journalists and workers. Full coverage of the hearing was only provided by a commercial broadcaster.
The events provoked massive protests from NHK viewers many of them convinced the company was covering up the truth about its problems. Falling subscriptions is a real loss to the public broadcaster because broadcast law in Japan does not force the public to pay a licence fee. The spirit of the law is based on is mutual understanding between viewers and NHK. Further cancellations will threaten the financial future of NHK.
The IFJ-affiliated company union Nipporo, which represent all groups of workers at the station, says that the President should resign immediately. The Union has launched a national campaign seeking public support and plans to lobby parliamentarians over NHK’s budget and operation report when it comes before the National Diet in March. If the budget is rejected Ebisawa will have no choice but to stand down.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries