Protecting Youth and Regulating Speech

Aaron Gerow gerow
Tue Jan 16 20:58:34 EST 2001

In what will only be one of the first stones thrown in an upcoming battle 
over regulating the media in Japan, six prominent news casters, including 
Chikushi Tetsuya and Tahara Soichiro, have publically announced their 
determined opposition to the LDP's plan to introduce in the Diet a bill 
for "The Basic Law for Improving the Social Environment of Minors" (my 
poor translation of this monstrosity: ?????????????), a 
sweeping measure that many fear will greatly increase the government's 
power to regulate the content of all sorts of media, including TV and 

While the bill, being formulated by LDP members of the upper house, but 
also essentially supported by many Democratic Party members who are 
creating their own bill, will reportedly take the so-called "harmful 
book" (????) bylaws held by many local governments and make them 
national, as well as expand them to other media.  The "harmful book" 
bylaws have been around for some time, and were mostly introduced to 
regulate comics, pornography and other publications by designating 
certain ones "harmful" and restricting their sale.  Similar bylaws for 
film exist in some localities which, while not always designating the 
film harmful, restrict the content of posters, publicity stills, and 
sometimes even the titles of movies shown at theaters by designating them 
"harmful" (the rise of such bylaws became a big issue in the industry in 
the 1970s).

The LDP plan, it seems, is to give the national government the same 
power, and to use it for the content of media other than print, like TV 
and film.  Presumably, this is not "censorship" (prohibited by the 
constitution) because nothing is cut from such works.  Yet by designating 
and trying to restrict access to content determined harmful by the 
government, it represents one of the most serious attempts to regulate 
speech and artistic activity in recent years.  Since public outrage over 
youth crime, supposedly promoted by various media, has created a spirit 
supporting this bill, it may be very hard to defeat.

The battle over Battle Royale was in some ways a preliminary skirmish for 
this bill.

Stay tuned.....

Aaron Gerow
Yokohama National University
KineJapan list owner
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