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Japan Regulators Accuse Talent Agencies of Bullying

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has found standard practices at entertainment and sports talent management companies breach local anti-trust laws.

In a draft report released to the media on Friday, an expert panel commissioned by the FTC cited restrictions that prevent talent from leaving the agencies or selling their services elsewhere.

In response, the panel does not propose new laws, but rather stricter enforcement of current anti-trust statutes. It will hold another meeting in February and issue a final report in Spring 2018.

One example cited involved music mega-group SMAP, whose five members not only sold millions of records as a pop ensemble and were also staples on TV, in films, and other media for more than two decades. When four members decided to leave Johnny & Associates, to follow a manager who had gone independent, they were forced to reconsider. In January last year, SMAP issued an apology on national TV for “worrying fans.” After a public outcry over agency bullying, the group finally disbanded in December, 2016.

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