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Tenants in rented homes with TVs must pay NHK reception fee: top court

This Jan. 13, 2014 file photo shows the NHK Broadcasting Center, in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Supreme Court has upheld a May 2017 Tokyo High Court decision that a resident of a rented room with a TV must sign a subscription contract with public broadcaster NHK and pay monthly reception fees as long as the resident has exclusive use of the TV.

In its ruling dated Aug. 29, the top court's First Petty Bench dismissed an appeal filed by a resident against the high court's decision, which sided with NHK. The top court's ruling is the first of its kind for a resident of a rental home who has been obliged to sign a reception contract with the public broadcaster.

Article 64 of the Broadcast Act stipulates that those who installed broadcast reception equipment, including TVs, must sign a subscription contract with NHK.

According to the lower court rulings, the male resident lived in a furnished "Leopalace21" rental home with a TV, which his company rented for about a month in 2015. He paid reception fees when officials of NHK visited to collect them but argued that the reception contract was invalid.

The Tokyo District Court in October 2016 ruled in favor of the resident and ordered the broadcaster to return one month's reception fee, totaling 1,310 yen, because he could not be deemed as the installer of the TV set at his apartment. In an appeal, however, the Tokyo High Court rejected the resident's argument, and ruled that a resident with exclusive use of a TV can be regarded as the installer for the purposes of the law.

NHK says that there have been six similar lawsuits against NHK. In four of those cases, lower courts have ruled in favor of the public broadcaster. There is a pending lawsuit at the Fukuoka High Court.

(Japanese original by Naotaka Ito, City News Department)

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