Panel: Officials likely aware of regulation breach

A third-party panel reviewing scandals involving Japan's communications ministry says officials entertained by a satellite broadcaster may have been aware that the firm was violating a law on foreign ownership.

The case dominated headlines earlier this year as executives of the broadcaster included Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide's son.

The panel on Friday submitted a report of its probe into whether illegal wining and dining provided by Tohokushinsha Film Corporation affected the ministry's decision-making process in the host's favor.

The focus was the authorization of the company's satellite broadcasting channel four years ago.

The panel looked into whether the ministry allowed the company to hand over the authorization to a subsidiary despite knowing that the firm's foreign shareholdings exceeded the legal limit.

The report says officials in charge of the matter were likely to have been aware of the breach.

The report also says if they really were aware, they should have nullified the authorization but they did not. It argues that the ministry cannot escape the criticism that entertainment distorted its work.

Tohokushinsha insists that it consulted with a division chief about the violation beforehand, but the panel says it did not find evidence that substantiates the allegation.

Panel members say they found no information that suggests higher-ranking officials knew about the breach.

The panel says five officials in charge of the authorization process were entertained by the company, but it obtained no facts that the two sides discussed the breach during the dinners.

However, the panel warns that the ministry should take the scandal seriously, because its decision-making may have been influenced no matter whether the officials were entertained or not.