The Asahi Shimbun reports that the Fuji Television Network are facing complaints after a TV show aired in July last year left a bereaved family member angry and humiliated.
“The show was part of a 27-hour marathon program of Fuji Television Network featuring Hiroyuki Ehara, a self-proclaimed “spiritual counselor.” Set up by program staff, an unsuspecting beauty parlor operator from northern Japan was shown receiving what Ehara claimed was a message from her dead father.
The woman later protested to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) committee, saying she had not consented to such “counseling” and that her financial situation had been exaggerated.
In January, the BPO broadcasting ethics verification committee issued a stinging report, saying the program “utilized” the woman to enhance Ehara's image and recommended the broadcaster exercise restraint in its production of material lacking a scientific basis.
However, networks always feature celebrities who have super-natural powers within their prime time air space. Spiritual programs remain a mainstay for many major broadcasting networks. According to the Asahi Shimbun article, Fuji Television's “Tengoku kara no Tegami” (Letters from heaven) starring Ehara has boasted viewer ratings of over 10%, and sometimes close to 20%, on each of its airings since the semi-regular program was introduced in 2004. TV Asahi's weekly program “Ora no Izumi” (Fountain of aura), which also features Ehara, was moved up to a prime time slot in April last year.
Some are concerned that these programs are giving too much credibility to a phenomena that has no scientific grounds. Critics say that his has led to a growing number of scams, including one recent case involving the swindling of 10 billion yen through activities such as sales of amulets, and argue that the media has misguided the public. The lawyers representing the victims of this crime said, “The reason why the group could expand clearly stems from the misperception created by the media, which has portrayed psychic abilities in a favorable light.”
Under the Broadcast Law, networks are required to set their own guidelines and rules. However, there are concerns that these are not strict enough and problem cases like these may call for more severe government controls to regulate programs.
Other posts by Anna: