Japanese TV net loosening up amid controversy

Pubcaster NHK plans to slash monthly license fees by 20% and eliminate its army of door-to-door fee collectors, according to Japanese press reports. This will still give it a massive $4 billion annual income.

Starting in fiscal 2008, NHK may reduce its fees — which all the nearly 40 million Japanese TV households are required to pay — by as much as 20%. This would reduce its annual receiving fee income by nearly Y120 billion ($984 million), from the current $4.92 billion. It intends to make up for some of this lost coin by ending door-to-door fee collections, which cost $246 million annually, replacing with them with collections through bank transfers.

Hit by a series of scandals, most involving employees pocketing production funds, NHK has watched fee collections slide in recent years, as viewers protest with their pocketbooks. The pubcaster has proposed making fee payments legally obligatory, with fines for scofflaws, but Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga has opposed this plan, saying that it would be a hard sell to viewers, unless NHK first slashes fees 20%.

NHK contracts for color TVs call for basic monthly fee payments of $11. To encourage viewers to pay through their banks, the pubcaster offers incentives for bank transfers.

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