Monday, November 23, 2015

"Broadcasting watchdog finds TBS violated scandal-hit composer Samuragochi’s rights"

From The Japan Times, 11/18/15. See the VAOJ commentary at the end of the story.

A Tokyo Broadcasting System Television variety show committed a human rights violation when it aired a segment on allegations surrounding composer Mamoru Samuragochi in March 2014, an independent panel promoting ethical broadcasting has ruled.

In a rare harsh decision against a TV network, the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) urged TBS to broadcast its decision and prevent similar incidents in the future.

The decision, announced Tuesday, is the toughest penalty the industry watchdog can take against a network. It is the first time in nine years the BPO said a TV program violated human rights.

The segment in question was aired during the program, “Akko ni Omakase,” featuring Akiko Wada, a singer and talk show host known for not mincing words.

Introducing a news conference given by Samuragochi, who apologized for having had another composer ghostwrite his music, the program narrator said “normal conversations took place (between him and the reporters).”

Such narration gave the impression to viewers that he was faking deafness, “without sufficient grounds to assume so,” and damaged his reputation, the BPO said.

“It is a sensitive theme that concerns the human rights of the hearing impaired, and should have been given sufficient consideration from the viewpoint of broadcasting ethics,” the BPO said.

The BPO concluded another variety show aired on the Fuji TV network that also featured the controversy surrounding Samuragochi, which the composer claimed humiliated him, did not violate ethical standards.

TBS released a statement following the BPO decision, saying it will “take the recommendation sincerely.”

“We tried to present the questions raised by (Samuragochi’s) news conference, including views from experts. But we will examine the panel’s decision in detail and will use it in future programming,” TBS said.


I am still trying to get my head around this story. On the one hand it definitely illustrates how the idea of defamation is different in Japan. Samuragochi, once dubbed the Beethoven of Japan, was caught red-handed lying. There is no denying this. But it doesn't matter that he did something wrong. Rather his image and spirit were seen to be damaged through televised narration that might have given the audience a false impression. This is a standard interpretation of defamation laws in Japan.

What I am having difficulties with is the idea of how the "human rights of the hearing impaired" were damaged. The problematic narration was "normal conversations took place (between Samuraguchi and reporters)." Does that not also imply that a deaf or hearing impaired person is unable to have normal conversations with hearing people? And if they do they are somehow faking deafness? As there is a wide variation in levels of deafness and communication styles, some (not all) deaf/hearing impaired people can speak and speechread so as to have so-called normal conversations. Is this decision by the BPO not another example of possibly giving impressions "without sufficient grounds to assume so"?

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