Org to fact-check Japan programs

Group to investigate suspected fabrications

TOKYO — The Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization, an industry self-regulatory org established by pubcaster NHK and the commercial webs, announced on Thursday the formation of the Broadcasting Ethics Verification Committee in Tokyo.

Committee will investigate suspected cases of fabricated info on supposedly factual TV programs.

Faked diet data broadcast on Kansai Telecasting’s popular “Encyclopedia of Living II” show last January stirred up a media storm over the truthfulness of Japanese television, particularly infotainment variety shows. The scandal led the webs and NHK to found the org in a bid to head off government attempts to tighten controls over programming.   

The 10-person committee, headed by lawyer Kazuharu Kawabata, includes critic Takashi Tachibana, scriptwriter Shinichi Ichikawa and Rikkyo U. professor Takaaki Hattori.

The committee will investigate suspected cases of factual finagling and, if they discover problems, will inform the offending broadcaster and propose measures to prevent repetitions. In addition to broadcasters themselves, the committee will gather information from viewers, producers, program subjects and others involved in the production process.

The committee will have the power to hold hearings, calling on lawyers and special investigators to gather information and gathering testimony from those involved. To handle especially complex cases, it will set up independent subcommittees.

The Japanese broadcasting biz has long had problems with program fakery, with the culprits often production companies subcontracted by the webs — who in turn often sub-subcontract work to other companies. Under intense pressure to produce ratings winners, while laboring under razor-tight schedules and rock-bottom budgets, subcontractors have frequently resorted to cutting corners and faking facts. Whether a single committee can change this deep-rooted system remains to be seen.

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