NHK loses ‘modified TV licence fee’ case

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Japan’s public broadcaster NHK has lost a court action concerning its annual licence fee. It is the first time than NHK has lost such an action.

The case concerned a viewer who had modified his TV with a signal filter to not receive signals from NHK and was thus not required to pay the license fee.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that the viewer is not required to pay the annual fee.

There will almost certainly be an appeal against the ruling, and NHK is helped by numerous other similar cases which it has won. Indeed, this particular viewer had lost previous viewing fee squabbles against NHK.

According to the court verdict, the plaintiff, who is critical of NHK’s forceful collection of viewing fees learned that an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba had developing a filtering device that weakens transmission signals from NHK. She contacted the associate professor and reportedly bought a used TV equipped with the filter from a nonprofit organisation headed by the teacher for ¥3,000 (about $28) in October 2018, setting it up at her home.

NHK argued at the court that the TV set’s core functionality was to receive its signals, and that the device could easily be removed.

According to the Japan Times, Judge Ritsuko Ogawa, who presided over the case, rejected NHK’s claim, saying that the woman’s TV “cannot be said to be able to receive NHK broadcasts” and that it would be difficult to revive that function.


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