Talent Agency Alleged To Have Pressured Stations

Talent agency alleged to have pressured stations

Leading Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates is said to have pressured commercial broadcasters not to feature three former members of popular idol group SMAP.

SMAP disbanded in 2016. In September 2017, three of the five former members of the all-male band -- Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori -- broke away from Johnny & Associates.

After they left, their regular programs of commercial broadcasters were canceled one after another. They now appear on none of the broadcasters' TV programs.

The Fair Trade Commission has investigated an allegation that the firm pressured commercial TV stations over the former members.

The commission cautioned this month that such an act could lead to violating Japan's antimonopoly law.

NHK has learned that someone connected to a commercial broadcaster told the FTC that the broadcaster was pressured by Johnny & Associates when asking about booking the agency's talent.

The person reportedly quoted the agency's executive as saying such requests would be refused, if any of the three former SMAP members were involved in related programs.

Based on the information, the FTC investigated further and apparently found that the executive's remarks and acts made the broadcaster believe it difficult to have the agency's talent appear on programs featuring any of the three.

The commission is believed to have concluded that such acts cannot be regarded as a violation of the anti-monopoly law but could lead to it.

Johnny & Associates said on its website that it has not put any pressure on TV stations.

The agency also says it has not received administrative punishments or warnings for violating the law.