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NHK business plan allows for expansion of online business despite spending cap

This March 2019 file photo shows the NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi/Masaaki Shimano)

TOKYO -- Public broadcaster NHK announced Sept. 10 that spending on its online business will stay capped at 2.5% of its subscription contract income, but separate spending quotas for online distribution of international broadcasts and some other lines of business will effectively raise this upper limit.

Commercial broadcasters have called for the 2.5% cap to remain, as they are wary of the publicly funded broadcaster gaining too much of an online presence. NHK's planned revision to its operation standards for its online business is therefore expected to trigger a backlash.

NHK's Board of Governors chaired by Susumu Ishihara, a senior executive adviser at Kyushu Railway Co., broadly agreed to the online business plan on Sept. 10. The broadcaster was to begin soliciting opinions on the proposal on Sept. 11.

A revision to the Broadcasting Act that was enacted in May this year made it possible for NHK's television programs to be broadcast simultaneously online. NHK President Ryoichi Ueda has indicated that he intends to start such simultaneous broadcasts by March 2020.

Altogether four areas of business will remain outside the scope of the 2.5% spending cap, instead having fixed spending limits. Those areas are the distribution of local programs and collaboration with commercial broadcasters such as TVer, limited to 2.8 billion yen; universal service including the captioning of distributed broadcasts, capped at 700 million yen; the distribution of international broadcasts, with an upper limit of 3.5 billion yen; and distribution related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games which will be capped at 2 billion yen.

NHK says "active implementation" of these four lines of business is called for on the grounds that they serve the public interest. At the same time, it says spending will be administered with restraint. Executive Director Hiroshi Araki suggested NHK will seek understanding from commercial broadcasters, saying the funds in each of the four areas would not be used in a way that would warrant criticism against the broadcaster for having too large of a presence.

NHK collects about 700 billion yen in "receiving fees" each year. It says the amount it will spend on its "basic business," including simultaneous online broadcasts, is expected to reach up to about 17.5 billion yen, or 2.5% of the total.

The public broadcaster will seek approval of the plan from the minister of internal affairs and communications after a vote by its Board of Governors.

(Japanese original by Hisanori Yashiro, Cultural News Department)

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