February 10, 2016
The Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications has implied that the minister may order broadcast licensees to stop broadcasting if their programs are judged to be repeatedly lacking political fairness based on the Radio Act.
Minister Takaichi Sanae in a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on February 9 said that she cannot guarantee that the law’s punitive clause “will not be applied into the future”.
Many critics expressed grave concern over the remark she made as it poses a threat to freedom of speech and expression in broadcasting.
Matsuda Hiroshi, a media researcher, stated that what she alluded violates Article 3 of the Broadcast Act stipulating, “Broadcast programs shall not be interfered with or regulated by any person.” This very fact also reveals her blatant disregard for the constitutional right to freedom of the press, he added.
Article 4 of the Broadcast Act requires domestic broadcasting to “be politically fair” and to “clarify the points at issue from as many angles as possible”. The researcher pointed out that these paragraphs are a code of ethics that broadcasters set as guidelines for maintaining consistency between the independence of and the public responsibility of broadcasting.
The Radio Act deals with wireless licenses and communications, defining measures to respond to technical flaws of registered stations. Matsuda referred to the fact that the revocation of a license of a licensee under Article 76 of the Radio Act has never taken place due to the contents of broadcast programs.
He claimed that the implication of the minister’s remark leads to undermining the fundamental role of media as a watchdog of power.