Viewer complaints kill Japanese skein

TOKYO — The prexy of Tokai TV, a station in Nagoya, publicly apologized on Thursday for a prank that mocked victims of the triple disasters that hit Japan last March.

The station has not only punished staffers involved, but canceled the news and info show on which the prank aired.

On Aug. 4 the show in question, “Pikkan Terebi,” aired a list of winners of a studio promotion aimed at supporting the rice growers of Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas worst hit by the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and reactor meltdowns. What appeared on the screen, however, was a prank list of “prizes” such as “contaminated rice” and “winners” with names like “Mr. Cesium.”

When news of the prank went nationwide, the station was flooded with complaint calls from viewers, with the number reaching 15,300 as of Thursday, while 17 of the show’s 20 sponsors pulled their ads. The maker of the list was later found to be a staffer of a company that does computer graphics work for the station.

Station prexy Sekiya Iwano and three other top execs will take 30% to 50% pay cuts in their directors’ compensation for periods up to three months, while the two top execs of the news production division have been demoted and the show’s producer and director have been handed five-day work suspensions. The station is also investigating exactly how the prank list happened to air.

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