Japan: TV viewers must pay licence fee

The Japanese Supreme Court has ruled that TV owners in Japan must pay a “receiving fee” to public broadcaster NHK. Up until now the payment was seen as an obligation, but frequently ignored.

The particular case before the court concerned an individual who argued that he would not pay the fee because NHK was biased in its broadcasting. His lawyer argued that NHK’s subscription fee was not legally binding but designed to encourage people to pay up. He also claimed that the fee, because it was in the form of a contract, was unconstitutional and was a violation of the constitutional right to freely enter a contract – or in this case, NOT to enter a contract.

A terrestrial licence is Yen 13,990 (€105) and Yen 25,320 to cover satellite and terrestrial reception.

The Broadcast Law of Japan (1950) applies to all residents of Japan, regardless of nationality. NHK is established under this law as a public broadcaster operated on the basis of receiving fees levied fairly on all viewers. Every owner of a television set is thereby required by law to enter into a Broadcast Receiving Contract with NHK and pay the appropriate receiving fee, states NHK.

The Court of 15 judges ruled that the 1950 Broadcast Law was constitutionally valid and fair, and the defendant was ordered to pay the fee, and backdated to 2006 when he installed a TV set.

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