New NHK Boss Katsuto Momii Stokes Controversy

HONG KONG and TOKYO — The new president of NHK, Katsuto Momii, stirred up controversy this weekend when he made several inflammatory comments, including a statement that the public broadcaster’s programming should follow the Japanese government line.
The 70-year old former president of Nihon Unisys and a VP of the Mitsui trading house, Momii was recently appointed to a three-year term as NHK president, a post that gives him considerable power to shape the broadcaster’s policies.
Momii told reporters that the pubcaster, which has long insisted on its editorial independence, should not “much deviate from the position of the [Japanese] government in its programming,” using the example of Japan’s territorial tussles with China and South Korea.
He defended the controversial bill for the protection of state secrets pushed by conservative prime minister Shinzo Abe and passed into law late last year by a parliament dominated by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party allies. “It’s pointless to question [the bill] now that it’s been made into law,” Momii said.
“When the government says ‘right,’ we can’t say ‘left,'” Momii said.

Momii’s remarks have the potential to damage NHK’s reputation abroad. The broadcaster is a major force in factual programming and is renown as a developer of broadcasting technology.

Momii’s speech was quickly picked up in China, Korea and The Philippines. There his comments about the Japanese military’s past use of Chinese, Korean and Filipina sex slaves – referred to as “comfort women” — sparked indignation. Momii said the practice was common in any country at war.

In an English-language clip on NHK World (pictured), the company’s international service, Momii took a less inflammatory line.

“My approach to management has always been frank and open to our clients and colleagues, and to get a clear understanding of their needs.

“Now that I am entering the field of broadcasting, I will do my very best to provide you with fair, impartial, and accurate news reporting and high quality programming of all kinds.

“Especially at this time, with Asia’s development drawing global attention, we take our responsibility very seriously. With a commitment to independent journalism, NHK will continue to provide high-quality information from Japan and throughout the region,” he said.

Although NHK funds its operations mostly viewer fees, its budget is subject to parliamentary approval. The firm’s 12-member board of governors, which supervises NHK, though not on a day-to-day basis, is also appointed by parliament. The pubcaster, however, has long insisted that it is not a state broadcaster.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper has reported that Momii has since retracted his remarks about comfort women.

More Biz

  • Hong Kong skyline

    Hong Kong Declares Emergency in Coronavirus Response

    Hong Kong’s government has put the territory on the highest state of emergency in response to the outbreak of coronavirus in mainland China. Schools will remain closed until Feb. 17, long after the Chinese New Year holidays, which begin today, should have finished. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Area of China and some 600 [...]

  • Harvey Mason Jr.., Chair of the

    Grammy Board Chief Calls Allegations of Nomination-Rigging ‘Just Not Right’

    Among the many allegations in ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster legal complaint, the one that possibly cuts most to the heart of the institution — and is of most concern to artists and the public — is the allegation that the nominating process is “rigged.” The example in the complaint points to the [...]

  • Annabella Sciorra

    Friend Tells of Annabella Sciorra's Mid-1990s Struggles at Harvey Weinstein Trial

    A longtime friend of Annabella Sciorra testified Friday in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial that the actor turned to cutting herself and exhibited other troubling behavior in the mid-1990s after she was allegedly raped by the disgraced film mogul. The defense questioning of model Kara Young got heated as Judge James Burke sustained repeated objections to [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Judge Doubts WGA Claim That Packaging Fees Are Kickbacks

    A federal judge seemed skeptical on Friday of the Writers Guild of America’s claim that packaging fees amount to a criminal kickback to agents. Judge Andre Birotte heard more than two hours of arguments from attorneys for the guild and three agencies: WME, UTA and CAA. He said he would issue a ruling at a [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Why Aerosmith Is Still Gold for Synchs

    Aerosmith’s star-studded tribute concert as the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year honorees on Friday night (January 24) will cement another important milestone in the historic Boston-founded band’s contributions to the American rock canon. But over the past decade, some of the band’s best-known music has remained part of the cultural conversation through some of [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly Leaves SiriusXM After Two Decades

    In a surprise move, veteran programmer, on-air personality and Radio Hall of Famer Kid Kelly has left SiriusXM after nearly 20 years with the radio giant, a rep for the company has confirmed to Variety. The news was first reported by RAMP. He most recently served as SiriusXM’s VP of Pop Music Programming. “After a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content