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Broadcasters wary of move to limit TV ads on constitutional change referenda

TOKYO -- Members of the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association (JBA) on July 12 urged the directors of the House of Representatives' Commission on the Constitution to exercise caution in restricting television commercials that call on the public to vote for or against constitutional amendments.

At a hearing, members of the JBA offered their view that national referendum campaigns are free and open, as a general rule, and stated, "Commercials are indispensable for unfettered debate among the public, and do not necessarily need to be viewed as negative."

Under the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan, the broadcasting of commercials relating to the referendum and constitutional revision is banned during the 14-day period leading up to the national referendum, but there are no regulations in place prior to that period. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPP) are seeking strict regulations so that commercials are not affected by the financial clout of certain political parties and other organizations.

The JBA hearing took place behind closed doors, and was attended by the association's executive director Shin Nagahara, among others.

The CDP's Ikuo Yamahana called for broadcasters to impose self-regulation on commercials relating to constitutional amendment referenda. Meanwhile, Kazuo Kitagawa of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's junior coalition partner Komeito, urged the JBA to reach a conclusion by the extraordinary session of the Diet this fall.

In response, Nagahara said that the JBA would accelerate deliberations, including the possibility of self-regulation, in preparation for the fall session.

Following the meeting, Nagahara told reporters, "If regulations go too far, freedom of political expression and one's will can become limited, curbing active campaigns for the national referendum."

The LDP's Gen Nakatani said to reporters, "We can't impose restrictions, out of consideration for freedom of speech."

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka and Hiroshi Odanaka, Political News Department)

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