Times Staff Writer

A television director who paid two former motorcycle gang leaders to stage a fight between teen-aged girls for the benefit of the nationally seen "Afternoon Show" was arrested Wednesday and charged with instigating violence.

Tsutomu Nakagawa, 34, the director, has admitted to taking part in the incident, a police spokesman said. And Kikuo Tashiro, president of TV Asahi, one of Japan's five major networks, told the press that he was firing Nakagawa for staging the beating, which was aired on Aug. 20.

Tashiro said that three TV Asahi executives were being demoted. He also announced pay cuts for all the company's directors and for himself as well.

Keizo Kawasaki, 52, host of the "Afternoon Show" for the past 11 years, announced on the air Wednesday that he was quitting the program for having acted as master of ceremonies for a staged incident. He told viewers he had not known that the beating was arranged.

The program also lost all its sponsors Wednesday. TV Asahi executives said they hoped to persuade sponsors to return next week after the show has been revamped.

Tashiro, who on Monday took the unprecedented step of appearing on the program to apologize for telecasting the arranged violence, told the viewers, "There is absolutely no excuse." Then, bowing before the camera, he added, "I apologize deeply."

Tashiro said that he too will consider resigning after clearing up the incident, which he said "has left the company shaken."

The program involving the teen-agers, which was taped Aug. 3, came amid reports that TV Asahi and other networks were inventing sensational stories and filming them for showing on afternoon variety shows in an attempt to improve their ratings.

It came less than two months after TV cameramen and newspaper photographers filmed two thugs killing a man who had been suspected of bilking thousands of old people out of their savings. That incident, which occurred on June 18, was not staged, but none of the more than 30 cameramen and photographers present intervened as the thugs broke into the man's apartment and attacked him.

Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, ordered his minister of posts and telecommunications, Megumo Sato, to instruct all TV networks to avoid a repetition of the TV Asahi incident. Sato later met Tashiro and was given assurances that TV Asahi intended to comply.

The arrest of Nakagawa, who had worked for two years on the "Afternoon Show," marked the first time an employee of a mass media organization had been arrested for staging an event presented as news.

Nakagawa was accused of paying the gang leaders $325 each and the two junior high school girls $50 each for their help. He also was accused of treating both gang leaders and the two junior high school girls to a dinner after filming the scene. Police said he paid a total of nearly $1,000 for all arrangements that went into staging the beating.

It was aired as part of a special feature on juvenile delinquency, and the police started investigating after parents of the girls complained.

Both former motorcycle gang leaders and the two junior high school girls, who beat up five others, were arrested earlier.

Meanwhile, the police in Fussa, a Tokyo suburb where the beating was staged, said Wednesday that the 37-year-old mother of one of the girls involved had committed suicide by jumping in front of a train on Sept. 23. She was not identified, to avoid disclosing the name of her 15-year-old daughter.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World