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Editorial: Why were actions leading to revoked broadcasting permit in Japan overlooked?

The Japanese government has decided to revoke the satellite broadcasting permit of a subsidiary of Tohokushinsha Film Corp. after acknowledging that the firm violated regulations on foreign investment.

    The move surfaced amid a probe into the wining and dining of officials at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication by officials at the company including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's son.

    The Broadcasting Act states that the foreign investment ratio in satellite broadcasting businesses in Japan must remain below 20%. Tohokushinsha Film Corp. received its permit in January 2017, stating that the ratio of foreign investment at the time was under 20%, but later checks revealed the ratio actually stood at 20.75%.

    The company explained that the error was due to the company not counting shares held by foreign investors that were under 1%.

    Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Ryota Takeda stated that the ministry's investigation into the matter had been insufficient. It emerged that when granting certification, securities filings were not examined at all. In other words, the ministry had been taking applications at face value. It is unnatural for the ministry to have been this lax in its work.

    A total of 11 ministry officials were punished in connection with the wining-and-dining scandal. A portion of the entertainment overlapped with the period when the application for the permit was made and granted. Was there no connection?

    Wining and dining of ministry officials by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) has also emerged as a problem. The people treated to meals were not limited to government bureaucrats, but included Diet members. Past top ministry officials including House of Representatives legislators Seiko Noda and Sanae Takaichi, both members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), acknowledged having dinners with NTT officials. They said the meetings were personal and denied being wined and dined, but there is a possibility that they broke ministerial regulations that ban the receipt of entertainment from related parties.

    It is problematic that Minister Takeda has continued to avoid stating whether there were dinners with NTT. It can't be helped if people suspect that he is hiding something. If Takeda can't explain the matter, then there is no hope in restoring the public's trust.

    The core of the suspicions is whether the wining and dining warped government administration.

    The ministry says it will set up an outside panel of experts including a lawyer who formerly worked as a public prosecutor to investigate the issue. Originally the senior vice-minister for internal affairs and communications was due to head the panel, but following a public backlash, the ministry changed course. Doubts remain over how serious the ministry really is about unveiling the actual state of affairs.

    The budget committees of both chambers of the Diet decided to summon the presidents of Tohokushinsha Film Corp. and NTT to the Diet as unsworn witnesses. It is unacceptable for them not to elaborate on the scandal on the grounds that "investigations are underway."

    What was taking place behind the wining and dining? The facts should be thoroughly investigated.

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