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Japan's communications ministry eyes surcharges for TV viewers evading NHK fees

The NHK Broadcasting Center is seen here in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Nov. 20 revealed plans to legislate a system imposing extra charges on people who are illicitly getting away without paying NHK reception fees despite owning a TV set.

    The plans were announced during a meeting of a panel of experts at the ministry. It was separately revealed at the meeting that the ministry would forgo requiring television owners to pay NHK reception fees by law. The ministry had requested that the expert panel consider making payment a legal responsibility, but the idea was met by criticism from members of the panel. Requests from NHK, such as making it obligatory for people to report when they have installed a television in their home, and the institution of a system in which the names and other information of people who have not entered broadcast receiving contracts could be queried, were also shelved.

    The ministry indicated it would adopt a system of imposing surcharges on people who have TVs but are not paying broadcast receiving fees in order to raise the rate of payment. Under NHK's rules and regulations, people who are delinquent in paying the fees are required to pay 2% interest. But the new system would be separate from this, and would target people who falsely claim not to own TVs to avoid entering into NHK broadcast receiving contracts.

    In October of this year, the ministry had requested that the panel deliberate a proposal to clearly articulate viewers' legal obligation to pay NHK reception fees under the Broadcasting Act. However, because such a move would strengthen the coercive power of broadcast fee collection and fundamentally change the core of the current system, in which payment of broadcast receiving fees are based on the agreement of the viewers, many panel members objected. At the Nov. 20 meeting, too, concerned members said that such a move would "bring about a big change to the current system," leading to the proposal being put on hold.

    On Nov. 20, the ministry submitted a report on deliberations that the expert panel had been having since April, to which there were no significant objections. The ministry is set to discuss details of the surcharge system, and aim to submit a bill to revise the Broadcasting Act at next year's ordinary session of the Diet.

    (Japanese original by Tomonori Matsuo and Mizuki Osawa, Cultural News Department)

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