BBC refutes protest filed by ex-Johnny & Associates

The BBC has responded to a letter of protest from Japanese company Smile-Up., previously talent agency Johnny & Associates, whose late founder Johnny Kitagawa sexually abused possibly hundreds of boys on his roster.

Smile-Up. said on April 25 that it had accused the British public broadcaster of distorting the content of an interview given by company president Higashiyama Noriyuki. The program aired in March.

The firm says the BBC removed a segment in which Higashiyama said he wants to eliminate slander as much as possible. He was reportedly responding to a question about people who make comments about those who claim they were abused by Kitagawa.

Smile-Up. demanded corrections and apologies.

Higashiyama says in the program that he believes even slanderers have the right to freedom of speech. Smile-Up. accuses the BBC of deliberately distorting his views.

The Japanese company also claims the BBC failed to keep a promise not to air an interview with victims set up by Smile-Up.

On Friday, the BBC released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, saying: "This documentary was rigorously researched and reported in line with the BBC's strict editorial guidelines ... We ensured that all contributors, including Mr Higashiyama, were represented fairly and accurately and included all necessary rights of reply."

The statement adds, "The BBC did not agree to any restrictions in what could be discussed during the meeting set up by Smile-Up. with survivors."

The statement says the BBC has written directly to Smile-Up. "to explain why we reject all the points they have made to us."