New rules aim to strengthen production

TOKYO — NHK will lower subscription rates 20% while making sub payments obligatory starting in 2008, Internal Affairs & Communications minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday in Jakarta.

According to Suga, the ministry will formally submit proposals for these changes to Japan’s Broadcasting Law to parliament when it convenes Jan. 25.

Suga also said the ministry will ask NHK to spin off its departments for sports, entertainment and music program production into subsidiaries, starting in the 2007 fiscal year. The aim is to slim down the bloated NHK bureaucracy, while strengthening its production capabilities.

The ministry also wants to shake up what Suga described as NHK’s “ossified” management committee structure.

The ministry will propose that NHK lower its monthly sub charge — called a “receiving fee” in NHK parlance — from the current Y1,345 ($11.25) for a standard color terrestrial TV contract to Y1,000-Y1,100 ($8.35-$9.20). Also, viewers will be legally obliged to pay the receiving fee, which is not currently the case.

With a recent series of NHK scandals, most revolving around misappropriation of funds, providing a rationale, more than 1.2 million NHK viewers were refusing to pay sub fees by the end of September.

“We need to have a clear position (regarding the payment of fees),” Suga told reporters. “The current situation lacks fairness, and that sense of unfairness is spreading.”

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