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Japan Post exec complained to NHK gov. over program on scandal before firm lodged protest

From left, NHK President Ryoichi Ueda, NHK Governor Susumu Ishihara, Japan Post Co. President Kunio Yokoyama and Japan Post Holdings Co. Senior Executive Vice President Yasuo Suzuki are seen at a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Oct. 11, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- A top executive of Japan Post Holdings Co. met with a governor of public broadcaster NHK to express his dissatisfaction with the network's leadership days before Japan Post lodged a protest with NHK's governing board over the network's coverage of Japan Post's insurance sales scandal, an NHK governor told the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Oct. 11.

The statement suggests the executive played a central role in the Japan Post group's attempt to have the broadcaster's governing body reprimand its president.

The executive in question was Yasuo Suzuki, senior executive vice president of Japan Post Holdings Co. Suzuki previously served as vice-minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which has jurisdiction over administrative affairs of the country's broadcasting regulations.

It has already been revealed that Suzuki sent a letter to the NHK Board of Governors in November last year expressing his appreciation for the board's decision to rebuke NHK President Ryoichi Ueda over the coverage. An episode aired on April 24, 2018, had exposed post offices' practice of selling life insurance policies to elderly people and others using illicit methods.

The Japan Post group in July last year raised questions regarding a comment by a senior employee in charge of the program, "Close-Up Gendai Plus," to the effect that the NHK president was not involved in the production of individual programs. The company then sent the NHK Board of Governors a letter dated Oct. 5 demanding that Ueda explain NHK's governance system in connection with the senior program staff member's comment.

Asked if the governing board had contact with the Japan Post group before the Oct. 5 letter, NHK Governor Susumu Ishihara, who appeared before the Oct. 11 lower house committee as an unsworn witness, revealed that Suzuki had visited Shunzo Morishita on Sept. 25. He then told the committee, "I heard that Mr. Suzuki was strongly dissatisfied with NHK about the problems with regard to its governance and the fact that he hadn't received a reply from Ueda."

Meanwhile, in response to the NHK Board of Governors' explanation that the board did not record the process leading up to its decision to strongly rebuke Ueda, communications minister Sanae Takaichi pointed out that the board is required to do so under Article 41 of the Broadcasting Act. She stated, "Article 41 was set up to secure transparency of the operation of NHK. We would like the governing board to provide proper explanations."

Japan Post Co. President Kunio Yokoyama, who also appeared before the lower house committee as an unsworn witness, continued to deny the possibility of his resignation, saying, "I want to take responsibility for management by implementing measures to prevent a recurrence."

(Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department and Hisanori Yashiro, Cultural News Department)

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