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Tokyo court orders car owner to pay public broadcaster fee

This photo taken in October 2010 shows the head office of Japan Broadcasting Corp., the country's largest public broadcaster widely called NHK, in Tokyo's Shibuya district. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ruled that the owner of a car with a navigation system capable of receiving television signals should pay the monthly subscription fee for Japan's public broadcaster.

It was the first court ruling on whether car owners should pay NHK fees for TV-equipped navigation systems. The broadcast law obliges anyone who possesses a TV signal receiver to sign a contract with Japan Broadcasting Corp., commonly known as NHK.

The ruling came after the Supreme Court in March ordered owners of cellphones with TV functionality to pay the subscription fee.

In the latest case, a women living in Tochigi Prefecture, eastern Japan, filed the suit against NHK to confirm she did not have to pay the subscription fee. During the trial, she argued the navigation system was unable to receive TV signals when her car was in the parking space outside her home and she did not purchase the system to watch television.

But Presiding Judge Hiromi Morita said there was no evidence that TV signals could not be received as claimed and the court could not rule out the possibility that the navigation system had been partly purchased for the purpose.

NHK charges about 2,500 yen ($23) per month for terrestrial channels.

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