Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Katsuhiko Takaike

【#224】Warning against Biased NHK Programs

Katsuhiko Takaike / 2013.12.04 (Wed)

December 2, 2013

      On November 28, the Tokyo High Court ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay damages to an indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her through a television program broadcast on April 5, 2009, reversing an earlier district court ruling that turned down a damages suit. A total of 10,335 people mostly Japanese and Taiwanese filed the suit against the broadcaster, officially named Japan Broadcasting Corp., after being angered at the program titled “Asian ‘Leading Country’,” the first of the Japan Debut series, which they criticized as extremely biased. It was the first time that the number of plaintiffs for a civil suit exceeded 10,000 in Japan.
In contrast to the Tokyo District Court ruling that flatly turned down the suit on December 14, 2012, the Tokyo High Court decision made the Taiwanese woman, one of the plaintiffs, a winner in the suit.

Defaming term of “human zoo”
      Many people, including viewers of the program as well as cooperators and participants in it, protested that the program unilaterally depicted Japan’s past rule of Taiwan as demonstrating only a crackdown and discrimination against Taiwanese.
      Among the plaintiffs were people from the Paiwan tribe, an ethnic minority in Taiwan. Along with Japanese Sumo wrestlers and Kabuki players, a total of 24 Paiwanese in their ethnic dress participated in the Japan-Britain Exhibition in London in 1910. In the television program, the 84-year-old Paiwanese woman looked at a photo of her father as one of the exhibition participants in their ethnic dress and said she felt poignant. Then, a caption showed a subtitle of “human zoo,” indicating Japanese treated and discriminated Taiwanese, including Paiwanese, as animals.
      The high court decision ruled the caption as defaming the Paiwanese woman, though falling short of supporting damages claims by the other plaintiffs.

Independent panel required to examine fairness
      The ruling harshly criticized the program’s directors for collecting records and comments in line with preconceptions and producing the biased program. It also described the directors as lacking the manner of journalists.
      The problem is NHK’s habitude of having attempted to produce a program taking a negative view of Japan’s rule of Taiwan and of continuing to assert the program as not biased in rebuttal against the criticism. Judging from the ruling, NHK’s management committee or program examination board has failed to work. NHK should create a third-party panel to examine the fairness and authenticity of programs.

Katsuhiko Takaike is JINF Vice President and Attorney at Law.