The public relations firm that organized a press conference for scandal-hit male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. admitted Thursday that it had drawn up a "blacklist" of certain journalists not to be called on to ask questions.
FTI Consulting Inc., the Japanese branch of the U.S. business services giant, apologized and said Johnny's, embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal involving its late founder, had "absolutely no involvement in the creation (of the list) and distribution to operation staff" at the press event earlier this week.
The list was made so the press conference "would run smoothly with the limited time the venue was available," it said.
Johnny's also said in a statement on its website that it had had no hand in drawing up the list. But it did say it was responsible for the incident given that it had hired FTI.
The existence of the so-called "NG list" surfaced in local media reports Wednesday. NG stands for "no good."
The talent agency admitted to being shown the list at a meeting held two days in advance of Monday's press conference. During that meeting, Yoshihiko Inohara, president of the agency's subsidiary Johnnys' Island, said of the list, "What does this mean? We must let (all reporters) ask questions," to which FTI replied it would do so, according to the agency's statement.
Earlier, the agency had told Kyodo News that FTI's reply was that it would call on the excluded journalists in the latter half of the press conference.
The press event, held amid the fallout over claims of sexual abuse of hundreds of people by Johnny Kitagawa, lasted about two hours with a "one question per company" rule.
At one point, it became tense when some journalists shouted to express their discontent at not being called on despite repeatedly raising their hands.
Kitagawa was one of the Japanese entertainment industry's most powerful figures, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP and Arashi to stardom before his death in 2019.
After a BBC documentary aired in March featuring interviews with multiple people who claimed to have been sexually abused by the pop mogul, several former agency members came forward with additional accusations of abuse suffered during their teenage years.