NHK may sue deadbeat subscribers

Debtors include 47 households and one company

TOKYO — Pubcaster NHK will take 48 viewers to court in November unless they pony up back subscription fees, NHK chairman Genichi Hashimoto announced Thursday.

The debtors, 47 households and one company, were selected from a pool of 190,000 nonpayers in Tokyo’s 23 wards.

If the 48 do not pay by the end of the month, NHK will refer their cases to summary court. If they still refuse to part with coin, the court may order their assets seized.

Hashimoto said the pubcaster felt “a duty to make the maximum effort possible under the current legal system” to collect. NHK, he explained, had heard from many viewers “asking us we why were letting some people get away without paying.”

NHK is preparing to expand its hit list from the original 48. But bringing all the debtors to heel — there were 1.12 million by the end of September — will require a massive widening of its legal war.

Also, NHK requires every TV household in the country to sign a receiving contract, which obligates monthly payments, the amount depending on the services received.

Until now, the pubcaster had never taken legal action against nonpayers, but a sharp spike in numbers, and a corresponding drop in revenues, has moved it to action.

The biggest cause of the spike is a string of well-publicized scandals in which NHK employees swindled expenses or otherwise funneled funds into their own pockets, leading many viewers to stop payments in protest.

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